Paulownia tomentosa Scrophulariaceae or Bignoniaceae
Empress Tree, Royal Paulownia paw-LO-nee-a to-men-TO-sa
- Broadleaf deciduous tree, 30-60 ft (9-18 m) tall, fast growing. Leaves opposite, simple, large broad-ovate to ovate (10-25 cm long and wide), some shallowly 3-lobed, dark green above, dense woolly beneath (i.e., tomentose, hence tomentosa). Flowers pale violet, foxglove-type, in 20-30 cm long panicles, vanilla-scented, appear (May) before leaves. Brown fruits, 2-valved capsules, 3 cm long, persist during the winter. Each fruit contains as many as 2000 small winged seeds.
- Sun to part shade, not particular about soil or conditions. A tree produces a large number of seeds and seedlings will grow almost anywhere, so it can become a pest. Sometimes grown as a large-leafed shrub by cutting back to near ground level after leaf drop. When grown this way it does not flower or fruit.
- Hardy to USDA Zone 5 Native to China. Escaped from cultivation and considered an invasive species.
It is now found in the U.S. from southern New York to Georgia; an invasive tree in southern forests.
- tomentosa: densely wooly; with matted hairs (a reference to the underside of the leaves).
- Oregon State Univ. campus: two trees east of Benton Hall, on either side of sidewalk.