COMMON NAME

Princess tree


FULL SCIENTIFIC NAME

Paulownia tomentosa (Thunb.) Sieb. & Zucc. ex Steud.


FAMILY NAME COMMON

Figwort family


FAMILY SCIENTIFIC NAME

Paulownia tomentosa


IMAGES


Fruit

Flowers

Bark close-up

Habit

NOMENCLATURE/SYNONYMS

Synonyms: None


DESCRIPTION

Botanical Glossary

Paulownia tomentosa is a fast-growing tree that can reach 15 m (50 ft.) or more in height. The trunk diameter can reach 1.2 m (4 ft.). The thin bark of the tree is rough and gray-brown in color, with intermittent smooth areas here and there. The light brown branches have numerous lenticels. The long-petioled leaves are cordate-ovate in shape, and can be entire or have slight lobing. They are arranged oppositely or in whorls. The leaves are 15-38 cm (6-15 in.) long and 10-20 cm (4-8 in.) wide. The young leaves are pubescent on both the upper and lower surfaces, while the older leaves are glabrate above and pubescent below. The extremely fragrant flowers of Paulownia tomentosa have lavender or bluish corollas. They are 5-7 cm (2-2.75 in.) long and are borne in erect terminal panicles. The calyx of the flower is 5-lobed, and these lobes are tomentose. The pedicels are thick and densely tomentose. The woody capsules are ovoid, pointed, 3-4.5 cm (1.25-1.75 in.) long and 2.5 cm (1 in.) in diameter. The capsules are sticky and green when they are first produced, but become dry and brown by September and October. These capsules open and release about 2000 seeds per capsule. The capsules persist on the branches into the winter. Page References Bailey 900, Fernald 1273, Gleason & Cronquist 493, Holmgren 461, Magee & Ahles 912. See reference section below for full citations.


SIMILAR SPECIES

Catalpa speciosa Warder (Northern catalpa)
Catalpa bignonioides Walter (Southern catalpa) Both species of catalpa resesmble Paulownia tomentosa. However, the corollas of catalpa are white, and their fruits are long bean-like capsules.


REPRODUCTIVE/DISPERSAL MECHANISMS

Paulownia tomentosa can reproduce via seeds as well as root sprouts. The seeds of P. tomentosa are dispersed by wind.


DISTRIBUTION

Paulownia tomentosa is native to China, Japan and Korea. In the United States it is distributed from Massachusetts to Florida and west to Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Illinois. In New England it has been reported from coastal areas in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.


HISTORY OF INTRODUCTION IN NEW ENGLAND

Paulownia tomentosa was introduced into the United States in 1844 as a horticultural plant. In the northeastern and southeastern parts of the United States it is now being planted in plantations and used for lumber. It is likely that this plant made its way into New England by intentional plantings as an ornamental, and then dispersed from these points of introduction.


HABITATS IN NEW ENGLAND

Edge, Open Disturbed Area, Roadside, Yard or Garden

Paulownia tomentosa is tolerant of many different types of habitats. However, it relies greatly on disturbance to move into a natural environment. It can be found in dry, infertile and acidic soils, as well as spaces in cliffs.


THREATS

Paulownia tomentosa is a prolific seed producer, producing up to 20 million seeds per plant each year. Since these seeds are dispersed by wind, they can travel long distances and make their way into minimally managed habitats. Once they take hold in an area, they can crowd out native trees. This plant has been encouraged as a cash crop in Asia, and is being planted as such in the United States as well. These large plantations could serve as focal points for dispersal. In New England its distribution has remained limited to near the coast thus far.


MANAGEMENT LINKS

Plant Conservation Alliance
Fact sheet with management information


DOCUMENTATION NEEDS

Documentation required: A photograph of the flowers or fruits
Best time for documentation: Spring, summer.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Taxonomic information

The PLANTS database
General information and map

Plant Conservation Alliance
Fact sheet with description and control information

University of Connecticut Plant Database
Description

USDA Forest Service - Silvics of North America
Description and ecology

Virginia Tech Dendrology
Description and photographs


REFERENCES

Bailey, L. H. 1949. Manual of Cultivated Plants. Macmillan, New York.

Britton, N. L. and A. Brown.  1970.  An Illustrated Flora of the Northeastern United States vol. 3.  Dover Publications Inc., New York. 

Dirr, M.A. 1998.  Manual of Woody Landscape Plants.  5th ed.  Stipes Publishing, Champaign, Illinois.

Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's Manual of Botany 8th ed. American Book Co., Boston.

Foster, S. and J.A. Duke. 1990. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central North America Houghton Mifflin Co New York, USA.

Gleason H.A. and A.C. Cronquist.  1991.  Manual of Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. 2nd ed.  New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Holm, L.G., J.V. Pancho, J.P. Herberger, D.L. Plucknett. 1979. A Geographical Atlas of World Weeds. John Wiley and Sons, New York, USA.

Holmgren N.H. 1998. Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual.  New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Johnson, K. 1996. Paulownia tomentosa, p.38. In Randall, J.M. and J. Marinelli. [eds.].  Invasive Plants: Weeds of the Global Garden. Brooklyn Botanic Garden Inc., New York.

Magee D.W and H.E. Ahles. 1999.  Flora of the Northeast. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.

Randall, J.M. and J. Marinelli, J. (eds). 1996. Invasive Plants, Weeds of the Global Garden. Brooklyn Botanical Garden Publications, USA.

Rehder, A.  1940.  Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs, 2nd ed. MacMillan Publishing Company, New York. 

USDA, NRCS.  2001.  The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1. (http://plants.usda.gov).  National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.  

Williams, C.E.  1993.  The exotic empress tree, Paulownia tomentosa: An invasive pest of forests?  Natural Areas Journal 13(3): 221-222.