Fact Sheet

Princesstree, Paulownia Paulownia tomentosa (Thunb.) Sieb. & Zucc. ex Steud.

September 21, 2007

Plant. Also called empresstree. Deciduous tree to 60 feet in height and 2 feet in diameter with large heart-shaped leaves, fuzzy hairy on both sides, showy pale-violet flowers in early spring before leaves, and persistent pecan-shaped capsules in terminal clusters in summer to winter. Abundant flower buds present on erect stalks over winter.

Ecology. Common around old homes, on roadsides, riparian areas, and forest margins in infested areas. Infrequently planted in plantations. Spreads by wind- and water- dispersed seeds. Invades after fire, harvesting, and other disturbances. Forms colonies from root sprouts.

History and use. Introduced in the early 1800s from East Asia . Has been widely planted as an ornamental and grown in scattered plantations for speculative high-value wood exports to Japan .


From: Miller, James H. 2003. Nonnative invasive plants of southern forests: a field guide for identification and control. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS–62. Asheville , NC : U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 93 p.

Stem. Twigs and branches stout, glossy gray brown and speckled with numerous white dots (lenticels). No terminal bud. Lateral leaf scars raised, circular, and becoming larger, dark, and sunken. Bark light-to-dark gray, roughened, and becoming slightly fissured. Stem pith chambered or hollow and wood white.

Leaves. Opposite, heart-shaped and fuzzy hairy on both surfaces, 6 to 12 inches long and 5 to 9 inches wide. Leaves larger on resprouts, 16 to 20 inches across, with extra tips often extending at vein tips. Petioles rough hairy, 2 to 8 inches long.

Flowers. April to May. Covered with showy erect panicles of pale-violet flowers before leaves in early spring, tubular with five unequal lobes. Fragrant. Flower buds fuzzy, linear, and becoming ovoid in summer and persistent on erect stalks over winter.

Fruit and seeds. June to April. Terminal clusters of pecan-shaped capsules 1 to 2 inches long and 0.6 to 1 inch wide. Pale green in summer turning to tan in winter and eventually black and persistent into spring. Capsules splitting in half during late winter to release tiny winged seeds.

Resembles southern catalpa, Catalpa bignonioides Walt., and northern catalpa, C. speciosa (Warder) Warder ex Engelm., which have leaves with sparsely hairy upper surfaces and rough hairy lower surfaces and long slender, persistent beans.

Recommended control procedures:

Large trees. Make stem injections using Arsenal AC* or a glyphosate herbicide in dilutions and cut spacings specified on the herbicide label (anytime except March and April). For felled trees, apply these herbicides to stem and stump tops immediately after cutting.

Saplings. Apply Garlon 4 as a 20-percent solution in commercially available basal oil, diesel fuel, or kerosene (2.5 quarts per 3-gallon mix) with a penetrant (check with herbicide distributor) to young bark as a basal spray.

Resprouts and seedlings. Thoroughly wet all leaves with one of the following herbicides in water with a surfactant (July to October): Arsenal AC* as a 1-percent solution (4 ounces per 3-galllon mix); a glyphosate herbicide, Garlon 3A, or Garlon 4 as a 2-percent solution (8 ounces per 3-gallon mix).

* Nontarget plants may be killed or injured by root uptake.