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.

Leave Us Your Comments Below!

Click the Submit Your Comments button below to leave us your comments, questions, or feedback!


We thank our friends at NoDepositPromoCodes for supporting EcosystemGardening!


Submit your review

Create your own review

Ecosystem Gardening
Average rating:  
 74 reviews
by Andre on Ecosystem Gardening
Bare land is the worst

The worst land is not the one invaded by any plant, the worst is bare land. Empty, unproductive, desertic, pampa. The opposite, like the Amazonas area, is full of life, over and under and one of the richest in soil nutrients and production.

Paulownia elongata is one of the most productive trees, an excellent shade tree, and great for the environment in the production of oxygen.

by Michael on Ecosystem Gardening

Paulownia fortunei and Paulownia elongata are NOT invasive. Perhaps you should spend 30 seconds researching the topic before you attempt to mislead your readers next time.

by Plant more Paulownias! on Ecosystem Gardening
such a missleading information. Shame!

such a missleading information, lie and such a shame!

by Joanie on Ecosystem Gardening
ok, I'm convinced to get out the loppers.

OK, I've been watching a couple of Princess trees growing in my yard this wicked rainy New England summer, thinking I should cut them both down, but I needed a push. Got it. FWIW, I have no idea how they got here...must've been seeds...maybe birds brought them in? The one in my front yard grew to about 8 feet this year...competing with my peach tree, the other one half that, but is growing in a pot. Maybe it was in the composted cow manure? Who knows. I've also seen many of these trees growing along the Squannacook River, east of I am guessing they float along. Anyway. Bye Bye Paulinia!

by Roebrt on Ecosystem Gardening

Most species of paulownia are not in vasive

Yes tematosa is invasive but it’s the ONLY paulownia that’s invasive !!!!

Fortunei and elongata are not invasive!!!

by Jesper Paulownia on Ecosystem Gardening
Only original spieces are invasive

You are wrong !

all the industrial hybride paulownias are not invasive.

There are 16 original spieces, and they all can be invasive, but there are over 60 hybrides which seeds are not fertile.

by Justin on Ecosystem Gardening
lift a building invasive.

We have multiple impress trees. They are horrible and literally grew under a tool shed. It lifted the shed, and the concrete foundation it was built on, off the ground and at an angle great enough that the door to the shed would not stay open without a rope. Do not buy. They grow in places you don't want them and are insanely hard to kill.

by REINTJE on Ecosystem Gardening

In the 18th century export china from the Orient was packed in Paulownia seeds.You will notice that there are lines of these trees near the Delaware River and the Hudson,descendants of the contents of crates unpacked at the water's edge.

by Criss on Ecosystem Gardening

I’ve read the reviews below and it is true for the wild ones or the ones that were purchased from not very informed nurseries; however, there is hope for those that do want one for the benefits. There are several nurseries that sell “sterile” princess trees and will guarantee us sterilization. These tress from the informed misery was grafted and tested vs. grown from seeds. Just FYI…?

by debby on Ecosystem Gardening
Empress tree's

I planted one in southern ca. The trick is to make about a 4 foot circle around it, put down something like rolled roofing, fill it in with gravel. Let it grow and it is beautiful. I bought one tree and one tree is all I got

by Andie on Ecosystem Gardening
I loved my tree....husband hated it!

Several years ago my husband and I bought two of these trees. We were told we had to cut it back (to one center stem) a few weeks after planting. We had one in our front yard and one in our back yard. They were so small, we put tomato cages around them so the kids walking home from school didn't accidently trample them. They grew so fast! Within 2 months the cages had to go. The first year our trees were 10 feet tall and the leaves were about 2 feet across! The next year, they were 20 feet tall and the leaves were the size of a 10 in dinner plate. The following year they were pushing 40 feet tall and the leaves were the size of one's hand. Absolutely gorgeous flowers with incredible scent. Got me yard of the month from my HOA on three different occasions! Now the bad part. The limbs/wood are not very strong. We pruned the heck out of the tree in the front yard so no limbs fell onto our parked cars during a rainstorm. The tree in the back suffered so much breakage after a mild storm, that we decided to remove it. Within a month, we must have had 1000 trees popping up all over our property, the neighbors property and onto a lake easement. We would dig out hundreds of them per day, only to have hundreds more pop up the next day. We have a wrought iron fence across the back of our property. One seedling invaded our neighbor's wrought iron fence and started warping it. We felt terrible. We dug at it, used Round-up on it, set fire to it....and still it came back, repeatedly...even though our tree was gone. We didn't have an issue with the tree in our front yard until we decided to remove it. It too had very mature limbs breaking off. We arrived home one day to find the whole top of the tree laying across our driveway. It had broken off in the middle of the tree, twisted, and landed across the strong winds or storm. We knew we had to take it down. And yes, that's when all the SUCKERS popped up again. Honestly and unplucked sucker could grow a foot tall (in a crack, in the yard, against a water hose) in three days time! Yes, they are gorgeous. Yes, they are invasive. But if I had a bunch of land outside a residential area, I would have no issue planting several of them. One could easily have a tree-lined long driveway within a year!

by Josh on Ecosystem Gardening
Worst Tree

This species is terrible in Wisconsin. The state DNR has labled as PROHIBITED. All those tiny seeds do germinate. It then outgrows native trees and invades prairie and other ecosystems. Only if there was a sterile horticultural variety, that might allow them to be considered. Other than that, DO NOT PLANT.

by David on Ecosystem Gardening
Paulownias are non invasive

Paulownias are not invasive in the UK, where I hold The National Collection of Paulownia, nor in Europe or most of the US. I have never had a single seed germinate in the wild. It needs very dry sunny and poor soil to reproduce from seed. However when established in conditions it likes it is a very fast grower, I have four varieties that in ten to fifteen years you cannot put your arms around and touch your fingers. Not only is this tree beautiful in flower but is spectacular in leaf and easy to grow. What more do you want from a tree? This website is a biased rant from someone with a fixation about this tree—take no notice.

by Tara on Ecosystem Gardening

I can not wait to plant some of these trees because the benefits far outweigh the perceived negatives. You want to talk invasive and damaging?! Lets talk about Wisteria and Rose of Sharron!!! My neighbors invasive Wisteria and Rose of Sharon grew under my fence, under my property, up through cracks in the concrete in my driveway and here is the kicker,,,,, my brother had an old pick up truck in the back end of driveway for YEARS and when it came time to move it, we could not! The Wisteria grew up through the entire chassis and anchored the truck in place!!! It took us 2 days to free the truck and 2 years of cutting and poisoning the vines just to get them under control. 17 years later I am still killing off my neighbors highly invasive Wisteria and Rose of Sharon!!

by james mcalvin on Ecosystem Gardening
will it bloom if kept at a 6' tall bush.

Can the Empress Tree be grown as a 6' bush and still produce those fragrant trumpet flowers that bees and hummingbirds love?

by james mcalvin on Ecosystem Gardening
white blooms

My neighbor's 50' tree has white trumpets with barely a tinge of pink and yellow.Fragrance is over 2 houses away over a thousand honey bees on it.

by James Brown on Ecosystem Gardening
Corrections to be made

Only Paulownia Tomentosa is invasive ,Paulownia Fortunei ,Kawakamii ,Coreana ,Elongata ,and Fargesii are all completely harmless and non-invasive.Check your facts better next time.

by Jordan kelly on Ecosystem Gardening
Information incorrect

This information is catagorically incorrect as the paulownia TOMENTOSA is on the invasive species list due to its growth rate BUT its seeds are incredibly hard to germinate and tissue culture is the main reproduction method among nurseries, HOWEVER the paulownia elongata and fortunei are NOT invasive AND just as prolific growers they are most definitely the answer to our global folia crisis wood shortage and mass deforestation please remember when writing articles you are influencing peoples opinion and to negatively report on once specific gene of a tree and not make it clear that all other genes don't follow the TOMENTOSA is damaging

by Mila on Ecosystem Gardening
Thanks for clarifying

I purchased an imported tray made of Paulownia and was amazed at its lightness. Clearly, this is due to the rapidity of its growth. It's almost like balsa wood.

We don't have any native trees in New England that grow that way, and anything that does must have quite the advantage over the natives.

Invasive trees such as Golden Raintree (sold by Arbor Day Foundation, of all groups) and Catalpa are enough for us to wrestle with-and now I learn about Paulownia.

USDA Plants doesn't have conclusive warnings about the invasive nature of the Empress or Princess tree, nor does the description on Wikipedia. Both would be the go-to source online for anyone who hasn't learned about them yet.

by Toni on Ecosystem Gardening
Previous Comments not relevant

I noted that all of the previous comments were written prior to the publication of this article! My guess is that they were written in response to another article on this topic. It is true that there is more than one Paulownia and it is the Paulownia tomentosa that is invasive in the US. That is the topic of this article. The value and use of this tree in its natural habitat are not in question. This tree, like the Ailanthus altissima, is an invasive brought to the US with good intentions. The fact remains, they are invasive. Do not plant them, do not encourage them, remove them if possible.

by Farm on Ecosystem Gardening
What is good, what is bad

After reading the article and the comments I have to say - I agree with all of you. I have a farm and have a lot of invasive plants ( California puppy’s and Scotch Broom etc.), this year I planted morning glory on my territory. Yes, I am trying to keep plants in check but if something can bloom I won’t it. I have bees, I have goats , I have sheep. I love plants that are fast growing and regenerative . If look about Emperors Tree closer you will see that wood of this tree is priceless! People always was changing ecosystems and we don’t know what is native or what is not. So in my opinion if nature created it this way learn and use it, don’t destroy it.

by Bee on Ecosystem Gardening
Still better to Plant Native Trees?

Hi all,

Even if the Empress Tree is not invasive, wouldn't it still be better to find the quickest growing tree, native to the area, instead of planting Empress trees everywhere? Can a tree really be planted all over the planet without losing diverstity of microogranisms, beetles, birds, mammals, etc?

by howaRD on Ecosystem Gardening
Incomplete info

Do complete research and do not publish what 'you' think. This tree only survives in direct sunlight, it will not grow with other trees because shade derives it of sunlight. That is why it grows along highways where no other trees are growing.USDA ARTICLE FROM WASHINGTON POST DR. PETER BECKJORD,USDA SCIENTIST (March 1990) cites the tree as a solution to deforestation in developing countries due to its fast growing nature. Can be used for building lumber and is valued in the Orient for its pinkish color. In 1990 the price was $12. per brd ft. Highly prized in Japan.

(source=Washington Post Magazine, Susan Tamulevich,March 25,1990)

by AVA on Ecosystem Gardening
THE USDA GATEKEEPERS most hated, no wonder the misinformation

It's amazing how much misinformation there is in this article... who ever wrote this article should not be so bias to such an amazing trees, which is medicinal and food in order countries, but clearly not in a the food old USA lying fake media...

MOST HATED OR MOST NEEDED? BEST IN C02 ABSORPTION; FOOD AND MEDICINES... hm, no wonder the USDA GATEEKEEPERS hate it, big pharma doesn't like competition.

by Bluebird on Ecosystem Gardening
Wicked tree!

Thank you for this information about the Pawlonia tree/Royal Empress tree! More people need to realize the invasiveness of this tree. Do not grow it! We bought a house on a small lot and the previous owner planted a Royal Empress in the tiny front yard. She loved the flowers, loved the shade, etc. and said it was her favorite tree. Our first year in the house: raking dinner plate sized leaves. The tree never flowered, outgrew it's space and the roots pushed out the nice brick landscaping wall. We had it cut down last Fall and now this year the shoots are popping up all over the place. People! If you want to plant a tree, plant a native tree indigenous to the part of the country you live in! Please! No fake news about this tree. It's real and despite it's pretty and fragrant flowers and welcome shade, beware!

by Vaughn K Buntain on Ecosystem Gardening
More fake news

For some reason this site enjoys disparaging Paulownia, and like so many things on the Internet, you are publishing misleading, incomplete information. The writer is either uninformed or has an axe to grind. There are 4 primary species of Paulownia: Tomentosa, Elongata, Fortunei and Shan Tong. Of those 4, Tomentosa is invasive and is forbidden to plant in certain parts of the US. The other 3 are fine species of Paulownia with excellent qualities. You would do yourselves and your readers a favor if you would separate the facts from fiction: Many readers are unable to distinguish between a Paulownia Princess Tree which is of the tomentasa speciees and a Paulownia Princess Tree which if of the elongata species. Please do your research and then write knowledgeably - harsh, misleading articles detract from some of the good things you have to say. The proper thing to do would be to inform your readers that a certain species of Paulownia should be avoided due to its tendency to be invasive, but it is unfair and inaccurate to lump all species in the same category.

by David Ewins on Ecosystem Gardening
A wonderful Genus

I am in the UK. and currently grow ALL 9 different Paulownias Species to maturity. Three are listed as UK ‘Champion Trees’ with. TROBI the UK tree register online- do look it up- however I have never had or seen a single self seeded tree. We do have warm dry weather in the south and east and cooler wetter in the north west but clearly our climate does not suit self seeding whilst the trees themselves grow well and fast. They can regenerate from the roots if the tree is cut down but not excessively. So I guess it can only be a problem in just a few areas or States. All varieties are very similar there is no significant difference between the more common tomentosa and elongate or indeed the others. Only ‘Fast Blue’ is significantly quicker and a larger tree. So your ‘hatred’ of this species i consider to be somewhat misplaced. Indeed at this time in early May there are no more beautiful trees.


Bath UK

by Michael on Ecosystem Gardening
Invasive Claims????

Paulownia Tomentosa was introduced into the USA in the mid-19th Century -- 170+ years ago. Ask yourself this question. If so terribly invasive?... Why hasn't Paulownia established itself (naturalized) almost everywhere?... like Dandelion plants? It has not. ***** Another insight relative this topic of invasive: During the last 40 years, Paulownia has been planted globally as a fast-growing timber asset. The North American Timber Industry and (importantly) its Lobbyist have worked very hard to influence and infiltrate the media and academic articles with these claims of Paulownia Invasion.

by Denis on Ecosystem Gardening

All the complaints about shallow roots can be resolved in the first 2 years of growth by watering heavy twice a week. Paulownia can have multiple tap roots.

We have a 16 year old tree near the center of a 40 acre property and no other paulownia.

by Mand on Ecosystem Gardening
Garbage Story

Did you get this "fake news" on the internet? Show us proof that these trees are "invasive"...I've yet to see any example in the US where these trees have taken over and wiped out other tree species. This article is merely opinion, with NO supporting facts. I have a neighbor who planted trees around his coral to provide some fast shade to his handicapped riders and his horses...beautiful trees in 10 years, and not invasive at massive spreading of seeds, or anything like that. Your garbage story also ignores clear benefits of such fast growing trees.

by Sherry A Buckowing on Ecosystem Gardening
Not completely accurate

It is only the Paulownia Tormentosa that is invasive. There are many other varieties of this tree that are not invasive. Do your research.

by Tonja on Ecosystem Gardening
Two Kinds of Paulownia Trees

There are two kinds of Paulownia trees:

1. Paulownia Tomentosa (the kind you "hate")

2. Paulownia Elongata (the "good" kind)

The second kind has a fuzzy leaf and is noninvasive. It filters the air we breathe better than any other plant I have read about. It does not have a deep root system and does not produce seedlings. In fact, I've read that it's sterile. I have one in my yard (I have no idea how it got there...other than a gift from a bird) which started growing two years ago and it's beautiful.

by Georgie Bailey on Ecosystem Gardening
Terrible tree

Neighbor has one tree and now I have it growing in my yard. Her yard is covered in sprouts. Nasty thing and I told her when she planted it what it would do. Grow all over the neighborhood. Her remark was "I won't be around that long" That was maybe 5 years ago and she's trying to get rid of the sprouts. Even the dropped leaves make a big mess. Any ideas anybody? I don't want to use roundup in my yard on sprouts. And believe me, once its cut down, the sprouts start. I read caustic soda (lye) will kill the sprouts but haven't tried it yet.

by Lynda fisher on Ecosystem Gardening
How do I kill all the sprouting in my yard.

I have cut this tree down. But it still is growing all over my yard. Please help, I need to stop this from growing all over my yard. I have tried different things and nothing seems to stop or kill it. I really need your help. Thank you in advance. Lynda

by Jim on Ecosystem Gardening
Sound like a hater to me

First of all, Most if not all of the Royal Empress trees for sale are not fertile. They are a very prestigious tree which can mature very quickly. If you are looking for a mature tree for your yard in a few years, this one is perfect. The wood from the tree is very valuable, and yes, it does absorb more co2 than any other tree, so it is in fact great for the environment.

by Kevin Jackson on Ecosystem Gardening
Just Heard of these Trees

I read that they absorb CO2 at up to 10 times the rate of other trees.

Could they save us from global warming?

by Robert Bernal on Ecosystem Gardening

Looking at the comments, I see there is more than just one type of this tree, and thus, this tree is perfectly fine. Can't wait to plant one in my yard - as long as it's the non invasive variety.

Perhaps, we should plant deserts with them (and somehow muster up the clean energy needed to obtain more water) in order to sequester some of the excess CO2 created from the conversion of literally mountains of fossil fuels.

I wonder if the wood rots quickly or if it would last for long enough until humanity figures out a better way to safely sequester excess carbon CO2 from the air, such as using unlimited solar, wind and batteries to "brute force" the conversion of excess CO2 into limestone.

by Horacio on Ecosystem Gardening
Amazing tree

I have six of these beautiful trees, they have helped cool my home. I don’t have much need for my ac because of them. They produce so much organic material that I deliver they are helping to enrich my desert like soil. I don’t rake the leaves that fall on the ground in one or two days they are dry enough that if they’re stepped on they dissolve or I use a pressure nozzle to break them apart. The seed pods do get very heavy and will cause some branches to break specially with a storm but so will other trees. I have also pruned some big branches but it’s a pleasure working with this tree. A thick branch is reduced to nothing so such ease. Mature branches are not hollow but weigh as if they were. Of the millions of seeds produced by my tree I have only had one seedling. I have five trees all clones from a tree I bought. They are root clones, when the roots are disturbed you’ll soon see a new tree trying to grow up from the area that was disrupted but they are so easily destroyed. I’m glad to hear that they have shallow roots because my tree is feet away from my septic system including the drain field and I haven’t had an issue with the system whatsoever. I love my trees they do remove a lot of carbon from the atmosphere.

by Elise Buckley on Ecosystem Gardening
Cut down; trees popping up ALL over my yard and neighbors!

I ignorantly ordered these trees from a garden center, so excited for their bloom and fast growth. The wood is soft and large branches were forever coming down in windy weather. Since the two large trees were near the property line, the leaves and branches kept messing up my neighbor's pristine lawn. Last year after a monster storm, I had the two large "Empress China" trees cut down. OH MY WORD!!! It is now like a plague! Seedlings are popping up by the dozens all over the yard AND the neighbor's yard as fast as we can pull them out. it is like whack-a-mole!!! Horrible. I don't know how to get rid of them! Help!!!

by Kathleen w. Weisiger on Ecosystem Gardening
Never caused a problem

We built a house on an acre of land in 1961. On the property was a beautiful Paulownia tree some 20 feet tall. We lived there for 22 years and never experienced any instance of unwanted reproduction. I recently returned there during an open house. The tree is still there, with no proliferation . I loved the huge heart shaped leaves, purple flowers, the fragrance and lovely grey bark. Three times Ive found paulownia in woods and tried to propagate them from seeds unsuccessfully.

by Kar on Ecosystem Gardening
Much needed

In San Antonio we need any tree that will survive desert conditions and provide shade in our extreme drought conditions. Living in an area that is consistently under water restrictions- this tree thrives and provides an environment and shade where we can enjoy the outdoors in our 105 degree temps. It also provides some much needed shade and relief to our garden that would be burnt and cooked from the sun if left to 24 hour sun access. In our area Cedar trees cause never ending problems with severe allergies (cedar fever etc) and taking over any vegetation. The only downfall I see in this tree is that the root system is shallow which does help in some areas of San Antonio where you only have 5-12 inches of soil on top of 10 ft of limestone.. however in a storm can cause larger and more mature trees to become uprooted. Just be sure to plant away from structures.

by RODNEY on Ecosystem Gardening

I have one in my back yard. It grew to a nice sized shade tree in a few years. It's beautiful, no roots on the ground. Never been a problem.

by S Wahl on Ecosystem Gardening
Stay away from thse trees.

I cut down three of these trees in my backyard. Between grass mowings, new shoots are coming out of the ground all along the root system 30 to 50 feet from the stump. The pieces I cut up for firewood are sprouting new shoots. The stump is sprouting new shoots. The roots grow near the surface and cutting the lawn is like riding over rumble strips. Hate those trees.

by S Wahl on Ecosystem Gardening
Stay away from thse trees.

I cut down three of these trees in my backyard. Between grass mowings, new shoots are coming out of the ground all along the root system 30 to 50 feet from the stump. The pieces I cut up for firewood are sprouting new shoots. The stump is sprouting new shoots. The roots grow near the surface and cutting the lawn is like riding over rumble strips. Hate those trees.

by Maureen on Ecosystem Gardening
Not all varieties of Paulownia are invasive

I agree with others who opine this article lacks accuracy re Paulownia tree. For example, the elongata variety are not invasive.

by John Tompkins on Ecosystem Gardening

To blame a tree that was brought here by Humans is just wrong. This tree wouldn't be a problem if people didn't take it from it's native land. Humans are the problem with Nature, Nature had it all under control. Funny, this was written by the most invasive species on the planet!

by Catherine Danielson on Ecosystem Gardening
One cultivar is invasive, others are not!

I am sure this review is well meant. However, it is VERY misleading. Paulownia tomentosa is invasive. Paulownia elongata is not. Unfortunately, P. tomentosa has given all cultivars of this tree a bad name. Paulownia elongata is sterile and will not spread seedlings. You just need to be sure you plant it 10 feet away from house foundations, driveways, and sidewalks. You can then enjoy this great, fast-growing trree. This kind of misinformation is the reason why Paulownia elongata is so difficult to find from reputable sellers. This site should know better than to spread incorrect information.

by rooyak on Ecosystem Gardening
paulownia wood

Because of softness Paulownia's wood, It's easy to work on. However, the presence of high amounts of silica in some of these trees may create patches on wood edges when cutting. However, with a variety of adhesives, these patches can be well repaired.

by Talbott Nursery on Ecosystem Gardening

Not true! NOT INVASIVE....Not sure where this author received his information, but totally incorrect! Have had them in our nursery for 10 years and have planted several with no ill affects, have one in my own yard! JT

by Eric Wilkens on Ecosystem Gardening
It's not Kudzu!

Well I live in Tennessee and Have had 2 growing on My property for 14-15 Years now. I have NOT noticed any off shoots growing any Where else on My property. The only FACT I see That was true ( to My knowledge ) is The roots. Yes They grow at ground level. This is The reason I was researching This tree. Only has given small amount of blooms also Which I regret. We purchased This from a birds & blooms magazine.

Page 1 of 2: