Princess Tree

Paulownia tomentosa

Invader Images

    • Princess tree flower
    • Princess tree bark
    • Princess tree form
    • Princess tree fruit
    • Princess tree

Identification

Appearance

Paulownia tomentosa is a medium sized tree (50-60 ft. [15.2-18.3 m] in height and 2 ft. [0.6 m] in diameter) that can commonly be mistaken for the native tree northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa). Bark is gray-brown and rough, often developing lighter-colored shallow vertical fissures.

Foliage

Leaves are large, broadly oval to heart-shaped (6-12 in. [15.2-30.5 cm] long, 5-9 in. [12.7-22.8 cm] wide) and arranged opposite along the stem, hairy on both surfaces. Petioles are also hairy and can be sticky when young. Leaves growing off root sprouts have been measured up to 2 ft. (0.6 m) in length. Twigs are stout, brown, and speckled with white dots (lenticels). They can be slightly hairy when young. Lateral leaf scars are somewhat round, becoming darker and sunken. The pith is chambered or sometimes hollow.

Flowers

Large flowers (2 in. [5.1 cm] long) are fragrant and light violet-pink, appearing in showy upright clusters (8-12 in. [20.3-30.5 cm] in length) in early spring (April-May) before leaves emerge. They have tubular corollas, ending in 5 unequal lobes. Flower buds are hairy and linear, becoming round.

Fruit

Fruits (1-2 in. [2.5-5.1 cm] long, 1-1.5 in. [2.5-3.8 cm] wide) are egg-shaped capsules, divided into 4 inner compartments that contain the seeds. Fruits are light green in the summer, becoming dark brown in the winter, and persist in clusters on the tree until the following spring. The capsules split in half during late winter to release up to 2000 tiny winged, wind-borne seeds 0.08-0.12 in. (2-3 mm).

Biology

This is considered a watch list species.

Origin 

Princess tree is native to China and was first introduced into the United States as an ornamental in 1840.

Habitat 

Man-made or disturbed habitats), forest edges, forests. Princess tree has also been cultivated in plantations for its specialty wood. This fast-growing tree is sometimes used on mining reclamation sites.

Threat 

Princess Tree is an aggressive tree that invades disturbed natural areas including forests, roadsides, and stream banks.

Life Cycle 

Princess tree can reproduce from seed or from root sprouts; the latter can grow to over 5m (15 ft) in a single season. The root branches are shallow and horizontal without a strong taproot. Seed-forming pollen is fully developed before the onset of winter, and in spring the flowers are pollinated by insects. Seeds germinate within a few days on suitable substrate; seedlings grow quickly and flower in 8-10 years. Mature trees are often structurally unsound and rarely live more than 70 years. 

Management Options

Mechanical Controls

Cutting: Cut trees at ground level with power or manual saws. Cutting is most effective when trees have begun to flower to prevent seed production. Because paulownia spreads by suckering, resprouts are common after treatment. Cutting is an initial control measure and will require either an herbicidal control or repeated cutting for resprouts.

Girdling: Use this method on large trees where the use of herbicides is impractical. Using a hand-axe, make a cut through the bark encircling the base of the tree, approximately 15 cm (6 in) above the ground. Be sure that the cut goes well into or below the cambium layer. This method will kill the top of the tree but resprouts are common and may require a follow-up treatment with a foliar herbicide.

Hand Pulling: Paulownia is effectively controlled by manual removal of young seedlings. Plants should be pulled as soon as they are large enough to grasp but before they produce seeds. Seedlings are best pulled after a rain when the soil is loose. The entire root must be removed since broken fragments may resprout.

Chemical Controls

Foliar Spray Method: This method should be considered for large thickets of paulownia seedlings where risk to non-target species is minimal. Air temperature should be above 65°F to ensure absorption of herbicides.

Glyphosate: Apply a 2% solution of glyphosate and water plus a 0.5% non-ionic surfactant to thoroughly wet all leaves. Use a low pressure and coarse spray pattern to reduce spray drift damage to non-target species. Glyphosate is a non-selective systemic herbicide that may kill non-target partially-sprayed plants.

Triclopyr: Apply a 2% solution of triclopyr and water plus a 0.5% non-ionic sur-factant to thoroughly wet all leaves. Use a low pressure and coarse spray pattern to reduce spray drift damage to non-target species. Triclopyr is a selective herbicide for broadleaf species. In areas where desirable grasses are growing under or around paulownia, triclopyr can be used without non-target damage.

Cut Stump Method: This control method should be considered when treating individual trees or where the presence of desirable species preclude foliar application. Stump treatments can be used as long as the ground is not frozen.

Glyphosate: Horizontally cut stems at or near ground level. Immediately apply a 25% solution of glyphosate and water to the cut stump making sure to cover the outer 50% of the stump.

Triclopyr: Horizontally cut stems at or near ground level. Immediately apply a 50% solution of triclopyr and water to the cut stump making sure to cover the outer 20% of the stump.

Basal Bark Method: This method is effective throughout the year as long as the ground is not frozen. Apply a mixture of 25% triclopyr and 75% horticultural oil to the basal parts of the tree to a height of 30-38 cm (12-15 in) from the ground. Thorough wetting is necessary for good control; spray until run-off is noticeable at the ground line.

Hack and Squirt Method: Using a hand-axe, make cuts at 6.5 cm (3 in) intervals around the trunk of the tree between 15-45 cm (6-18 in) above the ground. Be sure that each cut goes well into or below the cambium layer. Immediately treat the cut with a 50% glyphosate or triclopyr and water herbicide solution.

 

 

**Be careful not to damage or kill nearby native plants when conducting management work. And when using herbicides, always follow the instructions on the label.**

Citations

photo credit

Princess tree, 5453608, Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

Flower, 5453610, Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

Princess tree form, 5527451, T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

Fruit, 5527454, T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

Bark, 5527450, T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

information credit

Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health

Go Botony

Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council