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Paulownia tomentosa

Phonetic Spelling
pa-LOH-nee-a toh-men-TOH-suh
This plant is an invasive species in North Carolina
Description

This plant is problematic and alternatives should be considered.  Please see the suggestions in the left-hand column.

Native to Eastern Asia the princess tree is a deciduous fast growing tree in the Paulowniaceae family.  The tree is named in honor of Russian Princess Anna Paulowna (1795-1865), while the species name tomentosa means hairy in Latin.   This shade tree grows rapidly adding 15 feet each year to reach a mature height of 50 feet and width of 30 feet in just 10 years.  It is considered one of the fastest growing trees in the world.  

The leaves of this plant are large and velvety soft looking very much like those on a catalpa tree.  Flowers appear on second year wood are light purple pink, showy, and smell like vanilla.  Woody brown seed capsules follow and in the fall they break open to reveal winged seeds.

It tolerates a range of soils including low fertility and high acidity but prefers moist, deep, sandy-loam well-drained soil.  While it can withstand some light shade it prefers full sun.  Air pollution and coastal conditions do not bother this tree in the slightest and it self seeds very easily in the landscape.  The canopy produces dense shade making it difficult to grow plants underneath and it competes with native plants for nutrients and water.  This tree is not recommended for landscape planting.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Flower buds can suffer frost damage in the early spring.  This plant is weedy, messy, has weak wood and is listed as an invasive species by the North Carolina Forest Service, USDA National Invasive Species Information Center; the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Alba'
'Alba'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#invasive#fragrant flowers#purple flowers#weedy#edible flowers#velvety#large leaves#high maintenance#showy fruits#fast growing#messy#weak wood#self-seeding#disturbed areas#Braham Arboretum#poor soils tolerant#deciduous tree
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Alba'
'Alba'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#invasive#fragrant flowers#purple flowers#weedy#edible flowers#velvety#large leaves#high maintenance#showy fruits#fast growing#messy#weak wood#self-seeding#disturbed areas#Braham Arboretum#poor soils tolerant#deciduous tree
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Paulownia
    Species:
    tomentosa
    Family:
    Paulowniaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Used in paper, veneer, hand-carvings, clogs, musical instruments, furniture, rice pots, water pails, bowls, and spoons and has medicinal uses in Asia.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    China
    Edibility:
    Flowers are edible, add them to salad as a colorful garnish.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 50 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 20 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    1"-1.5" long woody oval dehiscent capsule containing thousands of small winged seeds. Immature capsules are sticky green turning brown in the fall.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Funnel
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    fused petals
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Large showy upright clusters 14" long of funnel or tube-like 1.5-2 inch long fragrant, edible, flowers appear in the spring. Pale violet to pink with dark spots and yellow stripes; vanilla scented. Flowers resemble foxglove.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Velvety
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Opposite simple oval or heart-shaped 5-12 inch with velvety hairs on both sides, pale in color on the underside, resemble catalpa leaves.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Fissured
    Lenticels
    Bark Description:
    Thin greyish brown with shallow fissured bark and lenticles.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Problems:
    Invasive Species
    Messy
    Weak Wood
    Weedy