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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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Wednesday - May 03, 2006

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Invasive, non-native Paulownia
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

Hi. We would like to plant a fast growing tree that will provide shade for our house. What do you think of the Paulownia tree (Empress Tree) as a possibility for the Austin area? If this is not a good choice, what do you suggest for a two story home?

ANSWER:

Paulownia is a beautiful, extremely fast-growing tree which I would heartily recommend if you lived in eastern Asia, where it is originally from. However, in several parts of the United States it is considered invasive, including in Texas.

As far as I know, there are no Central Texas trees that will grow as fast as a Paulownia, but what our native trees lack in speed of growth they make up for in wood strength, suitability for local conditions, and stately beauty.

Some tall Central Texas trees suitable for shading a two-story house over time include:

Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)
Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)

Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii)
Escarpment Live Oak (Quercus fusiformis)
Cedar Elm (Ulmus crassifolia)
Escarpment Black Cherry (Prunus serotina var. eximia)

Some smaller ornamental trees with showy blooms that you could use as foreground or accent plantings include:

Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora)
Texas Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis)
Mexican Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa)


Carya illinoinensis

Quercus macrocarpa

Quercus shumardii

Quercus fusiformis

Ulmus crassifolia

Prunus serotina var. eximia

Sophora secundiflora

Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Ungnadia speciosa
 

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