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Friday - October 16, 2009

From: North, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Shade tree for horses in North Virginia
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I need to plant a shade tree for my horses and am considering a fast growing tree called an Empress Tree(paulownia). It would be outside of their fenced area but close enough to provide shade for them. Would any part of the plant be toxic to them if eaten? Is there a better choice for what I need?


Anything would be better than Paulownia tomentosa, also known as Royal Empress or Princess tree. As a non-native, the Royal Empress Tree is not in our Native Plant Database. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we concentrate on plants native to North America. Paulownia tomentosa is not only non-native but is considered invasive in many parts of this country.

We will go to our Recommended Species section, and look for some trees native to your area of North Virginia. We will check with these databases for the possibility of being poisonous to horses of whatever trees we choose, eliminating any that we feel could be a problem. You could do the same and make your own selection and check that selection against these databases. Also, read this article from Trailblazer Magazine Poisonous Plants by Willis Lamm. 

Poisonous Plants of North Carolina

Cornell University Plants Poisonous to Livestock

Toxic Plants of Texas 

University of Pennsylvania Poisonous Plants

Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System

Toxic Plants: Horses from the ASPCA

These trees were all checked and found to be native to northern Virginia and were not on any of the toxic plants lists. 

Shade trees safe for horses native to North Virginia:

Fraxinus americana (white ash)

Liriodendron tulipifera (tuliptree)

Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Fraxinus americana

Liriodendron tulipifera

Platanus occidentalis





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