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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.

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

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Saturday - May 02, 2009

From: Manteno, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Dead-appearing Royal Paulownia trees in Manteno, IL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Have two Royal Paulownia trees two years old.Last fall all leaves fell off. Have two eight foot toothpicks. This spring, nothing happening.Are they dead or will they come back? If they come back what can we expect? Can't figure where the branches will come from. Can you help?

ANSWER:

Please forgive us if we don't sympathize too much over the loss of your trees. See this excerpt from a previous question about the same tree, also coming from Illinois. 

"Paulownia tomentosa (royal princess tree), a native of China, is a member of the Family Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family). Mr. Smarty Plants considers it a weed!  Please note what Texas Invasives says about it: 

'Princess tree is an agressive ornamental tree that grows rapidly in disturbed natural areas including forests, streambanks, and steep rocky slopes.'  

It is also is listed in the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England, in the Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Working Group Least Wanted list and the Federal and State Noxious Weeds list."

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are committed to the care, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America, but to the area in which the plants are being grown. We suspect that, since it is a native to temperate parts of Asia, your customary winter weather and temperatures very likely are the cause of its demise. Kankakee, in Northeastern Illinois, close to the lakeshore, is apparently in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5a to 5b, where the average annual minimum temperatures are -20 to -10 deg. F. Please dig them up before they try to make a comeback. May we suggest some alternatives, all native to Illinois, and NOT invasive?

Amelanchier arborea (common serviceberry)

Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud)

Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)

Ilex opaca (American holly)

Morus rubra (red mulberry)

Lindera benzoin (northern spicebush)

Sassafras albidum (sassafras)


Amelanchier arborea

Cercis canadensis

Cornus florida

Ilex opaca

Morus rubra

Lindera benzoin

Sassafras albidum

 

 

 

 

 

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