Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

Is non-native cotoneaster poisonous to goats from Eureka CA
August 19, 2011 - I have heard that cotoneaster is poisonous to goats and other animals. We are trying to get rid of it in our yard, but I was hoping we could use goats to eat it back. What are our options in removin...
view the full question and answer

Replacement for waxleaf privet
December 15, 2014 - i just removed some waxleaf privet due to reading about the invasive and allergy problem to it. Is indian hawthorn blueberry muffin any better? what shrub do you recommend? I want it to grow about 6-1...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating kudzu from Richmond KY
March 26, 2014 - I live in Richmond KY, Kirksville area. I have noticed that Kudzu has started to grow in my patch of land next to the creek. How can I get rid of this before it becomes a big problem?
view the full question and answer

Name of the rough-barked mimosa (Albizia kalkora)
February 12, 2008 - I read two years ago that there was two different mimosa trees one that is common and has the smooth bark and the other one had a rough bark. I am Interested in the one who has the rough bark and the ...
view the full question and answer

Controlling vegetation around retention pond in Williamsburg, VA
September 21, 2009 - We planted Juncus effusus around a retention pond and various native shrubs last year. We are having a problem controlling bramble,lespedeza and broadleaf natives from taking over and native trees(wil...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.