a deciduous tree in the genus Paulownia, native to central and western China, but invasive in the US. It grows to 10–25 m tall, with large heart-shaped to five-lobed leaves 15–40 cm across, arranged in opposite pairs on the stem. On young growth, the leaves may be in whorls of three and be much bigger than the leaves on more mature growth. Young shoots can grow as much as 8–10 feet in a single year. The characteristic large size of the young growth is exploited by gardeners. The flowers are produced before the leaves in early spring, on panicles 10–30 cm long, with a tubular purple corolla 4–6 cm long resembling a foxglove flower. The fruit is a dry egg-shaped capsule 3–4 cm long, containing numerous tiny seeds. The seeds are winged and disperse by wind and water. Pollarded trees do not produce flowers, as these only form on mature wood.
Urban waste ground, along highways and railroad tracks, and in disturbed urban or suburban woodlots. It is still occasionally grown for ornament.
In China, an old custom is to plant an Empress Tree when a baby girl is born. Can survive wildfire because the roots can regenerate new, very fast-growing stems. It is tolerant of pollution and it is not fussy about soil type. For this reason it functions ecologically as a pioneer plant. Its nitrogen-rich leaves provide good fodder and its roots prevent soil erosion.
Lat: 40.70, Long: -73.35
Spotted on Sep 10, 2010
Submitted on Sep 10, 2010