VISITORS to Batsford Arboretum can now see its famous Pocket Handkerchief Tree which has come into bloom two weeks early.

The exceptionally mild start to the year has resulted in the early flowering of the Handkerchief Tree, also known as the Davidia involucrate, along with snowdrops, daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs.

Head Gardener Matthew Hall said he expects the specimen to be looking its best by this weekend but will continue to look good for the next couple of weeks.

The tree is known as the Pocket Handkerchief Tree because each flower is protected by two long white bracts which look like white handkerchiefs hanging from the branches.

Batsford’s specimen was one of the first to be planted in Britain after it was discovered growing wild in China towards the end of the nineteenth century.

Seeds were sent back to the UK by Victorian plant hunter Ernest Wilson in 1901, and it caused such a stir when it first flowered, nurserymen could not keep up with demand for plants.

And the attraction near Moreton was one of the first to benefit from the new discovery and is thought to be more than a century old

"Many consider Davidia’s to be the most beautiful flowering tree in the world and if our visitors reactions are anything to go by, they’re right," added Mr Hall."Ours is one of the largest in the UK and proves a breathtaking sight every May".