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Paulownia tomentosa

 
Paulownia tomentosa

Chinese empress tree
Bud things
Synonym(s) Bignonia tomentosa
Common name Chinese empress tree
Family scrophulariaceae
Life cycle tree
Flowers pink (spring)
Size to 80'
Light sun
Cultural notes ordinary garden soil
From seed easy, germinate at room temperature

Fast-growing hardy tree. We grew our empress tree from seed about five years ago, and it grew into a handsome tree - but it never bloomed. The last few years it produced bud-like structures in fall, but they were always dead come spring. So the main attraction is the large, felted, tropical-looking leaves. These are late to arrive in spring, and the first to go in fall, after a hard frost - no fall foliage, unfortunately.
After waiting for flowers in vain for several years, we decided the tree's time was up, and chopped it down, to gain a better view of the crab apple (which does bloom very reliably). Paulownias are known for returning from the roots, and are sometimes coppiced annually to promote large leaves. Sure enough, ours sprang right back into action after its trunk was severed, with amazing vigor. What's more, several additional shoots appeared at some distance from the original tree, sent up by wayward roots deprived of their source of nourishment.

Paulownia tomentosa
After the first good freeze, all the leaves plop off unceremoniously, exposing the tree's open structure
Chinese empress tree
Light-colored, medium-textured bark
Paulownia tomentosa
Very large furry leaves on the post-lop new growth
Chinese empress tree
Closeup of tan buds in November after leaf drop
Paulownia tomentosa
Showing how tall the tree grew by late July after being lopped in early spring

In our garden, this plant grows in the following area: berm

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Last modified: March 15, 2014
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