En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - March 07, 2008

From: Waterford, CA
Region: California
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Information about empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have an Empress Tree, 3 yrs old, and the limbs grow straight out from the trunk about 2-3ft and then grow straight upward. When do they start to grow outward for a canopy??

ANSWER:

The focus and expertise of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are with plants native to North America. Our mission statement reads:

"The mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes."

Since the empress tree (or princess tree) Paulownia tomentosa is a native of China, having been introduced to North America in the 1800s, we are not the ones to be asking about its care. In fact, we would urge to replace it with a native, since this tree appears on many "invasive species" lists:

Invasive Exotic Pest Plants in Tennessee,

Connecticut State-listed Noxious Weeds,

Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group 'Least Wanted' List,

Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council Invasive Plant Manual,

Global Invasive Species Database,

TexasInvasives.org

Quoting from the Texas Invasives database:

"Ecological Threat: Princess tree is an aggressive ornamental tree that grows rapidly in disturbed natural areas, including forests, streambanks, and steep rocky slopes."

I'm not sure what features of the empress tree attracted you (shade, blossoms, fast growth, canopy) but here are some native alternatives with attractive features:

Acer negundo (boxelder)

Fraxinus dipetala (California ash)

Fraxinus latifolia (Oregon ash)

Umbellularia californica (California laurel)

If you are looking for canopy, you can't go wrong with Quercus agrifolia (California live oak). For a thorough discussion of California oaks, visit Las Pilitas.com.

 


Acer negundo

Umbellularia californica

 

 

More Invasive Plants Questions

Invasive Cissus trifoliata in Dallas
May 25, 2011 - I have finally identified an invasive, stinky vine in my urban landscape as Cissus trifoliata. It was waxy leaves, small greenish flowers, and small black berries. It appears to spread with undergrou...
view the full question and answer

Are Royal Poinciana and Royal Empress trees the same?
October 09, 2015 - Hi, can you tell me if the Royal empress tree and the Royal Poinciana are the same tree?
view the full question and answer

Advocacy of non-native plants.
December 10, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Instead of asking a question, I would like to comment on the seemingly discouraging tone on growing plants or trees out of their native habitat that I have observed from rea...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating dogbane from transplanted milkweed in Franklin Lakes NJ
May 10, 2010 - We transplanted milkweed from the wild into our garden. Included in the clump of milkweed was dogbane. We weren't aware of how invasive dogbane is. We've has some success in digging it out but we'...
view the full question and answer

Introduced invasive Melia azedarach along Shoal Creek in Austin
April 17, 2007 - Along the Shoal Creek Trail in Austin are many flowering trees with sparse clusters of small pink/purple, star-shaped flowers with a dark red center stalk, blooming now in April. They have a fragrance...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center