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Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa)

Princess Tree Princess Tree (Royal Paulownia, Empress Tree), a native plant of China, was introduced into the U.S. in the mid 1800's. It is found on Arboretum property but is more commonly seen along roadsides and disturbed sites throughout our region. Although still planted as an ornamental tree and used for reclamation of mine sites, it has become naturalized in many parts of the eastern U.S, and is considered an invasive species in many states, including Tennessee where it is listed as a severe threat by the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council.

Princess Tree Flowers Princess Tree Leaf

Although considered a member of the Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae) by many taxonomists, Princess Tree has recently been assigned to its own family, the Paulowniaceae. It produces upright clusters of pink to lavender flowers up to 2 in. long. The large leaves (5 to 26 inches long) are oval to heart-shaped and densely hairy (tomentose) beneath. In the fall, thousands of seeds are dispersed from the dry, brown capsules. Princess Tree reproduces by seeds and root sprouts and grows very rapidly (up to 15 ft. a year). Once established it is difficult to eliminate. The wood is in high demand in Asia for a wide variety of uses such as carvings, musical instruments, jewelry boxes, veneer, furniture, water pails, and spoons. In the 1970's and 1980's, the demand for this high value wood resulted in extensive commercial planting of Princess Tree in the US and other countries for export to Japan.

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University of Tennessee - Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
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