En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

Blackeyed Susans becoming invasive in Fredericksburg VA
August 10, 2009 - Are the roots of the Blackeyed Susan (BES) invasive enough to actually destroy bulbs. BES have moved into a bed exactly where my oriental lilies were..this year the whole row of red lilies (which had...
view the full question and answer

Reseeding a dead lawn in Wimberley TX
February 07, 2012 - Our new house had a sodded lawn that now appears dead. There remains a layer of sandy soil as a part of the sodding process. Is there a way to reseed these existing slabs of sod and what process wo...
view the full question and answer

Native alternatives for invasive species
April 05, 2011 - I'm a native plant landscape designer in central Texas, and know our plants well. Still looking for any help I can get on replacements for Asian jasmine, English ivy, Nandina, and Red tipped photin...
view the full question and answer

Maintenance of Blue grama in early stages
July 06, 2007 - I am seeding my large back yard with blue grama - 30-45 minutes of almost daily hand weeding for two months keeps me from falling too far behind on the green foxtail, bindweed, elm tree seedlings, pig...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants Exotic Species
March 26, 2004 - What Makes an Exotic Species Invasive? (When is a Guest a Pest?)
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center