Paulownia tomentosa

Princess Tree

Botanical description: Princess tree is a glamorous ornamental addition to the urban flora with the tubular flowers appearing a few weeks before the leaves in spring, dressing the slender ‘Princess’ in lilac panicles nearly a foot long. Over winter, the unusual and beautiful candelabra-like flower buds are sheathed in short, ochre hairs. The beauty of the flowers is in sharp contrast to the places it is usually found growing, such as in abandoned lots and amidst rubble. Paulownia tomentosa is a deciduous tree species typically found in disturbed habitats with ample light conditions. Its velvety, large leaves can reach a foot across. Young or immature plants often possess foliage that is twice as large as leaves on mature specimens and have been used as coppice plants in ornamental gardens to foster this character. Timber from the princess tree is prized in Japan and China where it is used for ornamental carving and in the construction of musical instruments. Paulownia tomentosa is a remarkably fast growing tree producing seed at the young age of five to eight years, which contributes to the plant’s identity as a pioneer species. Quick to sprout and flourish, the tree’s rapid growth enhances its ability to capture carbon in the urban environment.