Invasive Mystery Plant, Paulownia Tomentosa

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There have been numerous sightings of the invasive princess tree, or empress tree or scientifically speaking, Paulownia tomentosa in home landscapes. These pictures were sent in this year by a local resident.

Photo of a paulownia tomentosa plant.

Paulownia tomentosa is a deciduous plant that is fast growing and can grow up to 40 feet tall.

Photo of the stalk of a Paulownia tomentosa plant.

Photo of a Paulownia tomentosa plant leaf and a man's hand. The leaf is much larger than his hand.

Paulownia tomentosa leaves may expand 12 inches or more and are heart-shaped with velvety pale undersides.

This deciduous plant is fast growing and can grow up to 40 feet tall. It is noted for its profuse bloom of fragrant, tubular, funnel-shaped, pinkish-lavender flowers with interior dark purple spotting and creamy yellow striping. The flowers appear in the spring but have rarely been seen by homeowners here. This may be because it blooms from old wood (buds formed in the summer before the following spring bloom). Bees, butterflies and birds are attracted to the flowers. This results in random paulownia springing up in unexpected places.

Paulownia may also catch one’s eye because of its fast growth and large leaves. The leaves may expand 12 inches or more and are heart-shaped with velvety pale undersides. It thrives in average, medium, well drained soils in full sun.

The Paulownia tomentosa is listed as an invasive species by the North Carolina Forest Service, USDA National Invasive Species Information Center and the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States. Invasive species can lead to the extinction of native plants and animals, destroy biodiversity, and permanently alter habits.