Known as the Princess Tree, Empress Tree, and Royal Empress Tree, Paulownia Trees are highly invasive and are destroying native ecosystems from Maine to Florida and Texas, as well as the Pacific Northwest. However, open almost any gardening magazine and you’ll find adds touting this tree as an “amazing, fast-growing, shade tree.”
It is this fast-growing nature that is causing so many problems for native ecosystems. Growing up to 15 feet in a single year, this invasive tree shades out and outcompetes native plant communities for resources such as water and nutrients.
It thrives in disturbed soils, is drought and pollution tolerant, and easily takes over riparian areas. Every spring when it blooms, I am dismayed at how many more of these trees have gained a foothold along the wooded stream as I drive through my neighborhood.
It can reproduce from seed or root sprouts, which grow very quickly. A single tree can produce up to 20 million seeds each year, which are easily dispersed by wind and water. Even though the light purple blooms are quite pretty, I have learned to hate the sight of them.
Sale of this plant is banned in Connecticut and it needs to be banned in all of the other states in which it has spread into natural areas. Continued sale of this plant is extremely irresponsible. If your local nursery is selling this tree, please inform them of how invasive and dangerous it is to our native ecosystems.
When Good Intentions Can Have Disastrous Consequences
I came across a website recently which has a great mission. Tree Your World is planting trees to sequester carbon dioxide in the hope of slowing global climate change. They are enlisting environmentally conscious affiliate organizations, corporations, schools, churches and individuals to join in their efforts to help nature help itself while profiting from the experience.
The problem is, they are planting vast plantations of Royal Empress Paulownia trees, which they describe as the world’s fastest growing tree. These plantations are creating a vast seedbank of this highly invasive tree, which will spread through native forests, riparian areas, and disturbed areas.
While they may be acting with the best of intentions, their actions are nonetheless very irresponsible. Please use the contact form at their site to let them know how dangerous their actions are.
More From Ecosystem Gardening
If you find a nursery that carries these trees, make sure to ask if it is. The tree can only propagate through the root sprouts I guess in wild areas and by sticking a new growth cutting in some water so it'll sprout roots. I enjoy my neutered Empress and have no isssues with un-wanted propagation.
Oh no I love Paulownias! Thankfully in the UK (as far as I know) they don’t cause the same problems… I think our climate prevents them from being such thugs…
Thanks for info – I had no idea!