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

Thursday - May 13, 2010

From: Lakeway, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Non-native Paulownia tree roots around pool in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We live in Lakeway (basically Austin) and planted a Paulownia tree in our back yard. It is growing well. However, since we planted it a couple of years ago we have put in an in-ground pool. During the two weeks it took them to chop out the hole we definitely received verification that our back yard is solid rock after about a foot of dirt. Now that the pool is in we are trying to ascertain if any of the trees behind it are too close and could cause damage with their roots. The tree I am speaking of is 11' from the wall of the pool. Can you tell us how close the Paulowia can safely be next to the walls of pool or home? We would rather be safe than sorry and have been unable to find anyone that knows enough about the roots of this tree to advise. Thank you for any help or referral you can provide.

ANSWER:

Before we answer your question, let us tell you what we know about the tree. It is variously called "Royal Empress," "Royal paulownia" and "Princess Tree." It is called a lot of other things by people who either inherited this tree in their yards, bought and planted one, or had one planted by seedlings. However, this is a family website and we can't repeat those things. 

Begin by reading, from the Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group Least Wanted : Royal Paulownia - Princess Tree - Royal Empress Tree - Paulownia tomentosa.

We would also like for you to read the comments on this Dave's Garden forum site on Paulownia tomentosa, in particular, the 7 negative comments.  Notice the comments about it showing up in disturbed ground, like where a swimming pool has been put in, and about the roots breaking up foundations, just from a seed that caught on the corner of that foundation and grew into a tree. Considering this tree is purported to grow 8 ft. a year, and that most trees have root system circumferences of 2 to 3 times the height of a tree, we would say your pool, sidewalks, house foundation and maybe the next-door neighbor's foundations are all at risk. If you planted it only a couple years ago, maybe it has not yet started seeding. If you let it live long enough to seed, not only will you be fighting a grove of these plants, but your pool will be a mess all the time. 

Our advice is to get rid of it while you still can. Roots will send up suckers trying to survive, and you will have to be after them all the time, and we just hope it has cast no seeds yet. Please, not in Austin, we are already having enough trouble with invasives.

 

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Non-native Japanese maple for East Northport NY
August 20, 2013 - I live in NY and I am looking to plant a Japanese maple in front of my house. It would be in front of a window so I'm thinking should I get a dwarf? Or a semi dwarf? I know I want a red color but un...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting non-native invasive chinaberry trees
July 21, 2008 - I know most folk think Chinaberry trees are only for digging up, but I say that here in the Hill Country during a drought, they are the greenest and purtiest tree around. I have some tall fifteen foo...
view the full question and answer

Identification of spiky red berry in Connecticut
September 25, 2011 - I found an odd berry outside of my school, none of the science teachers know what it is though. It kind of looks like a spiked cherry. It has spikes on the outside, a pit on the insde, and has pinkish...
view the full question and answer

A method for killing nandina and ligustrum with herbicide
October 19, 2012 - Is there an effective herbicide that can be painted on the stumps of Nandina and Wax-leaf ligustrum to keep them from growing back? Thanks so much!
view the full question and answer

Non-native textile bamboo for Austin?
June 24, 2011 - I was looking for a non-invasive bamboo to plant as a privacy screen in central Austin. Would bambusa textilis (weavers bamboo) be an ok solution since it is a clumping bamboo instead of running?
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 | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center