What Type of Tree is This?

I was hoping to get a tree or plant identified, if possible.  I am attaching photos.  This was a voluntary plant that grew very close to my house and each summer it grows taller than the house before we cut it down.  I would like to plant one out near the woods, but I have not been successful in rooting it.  I have not ever seen flowers or seeds produced from it.  This one grows too close to my house and front door.  It is very messy in the fall when the leaves start falling. The leaves are very large (1 to 2 feet across) and they are oily to the touch (and they are slightly fuzzy?).  The main trunk is kind of hollow in the center even though, as it gets bigger, it becomes more wooden, but the center stays hollow, if that makes sense.  I would like to figure out what it is and where I can get one to plant where I want it.  It is probably some kind of fast growing weed, as I see it growing at edges of parking lots and up close against other houses.  I have even seen one growing out of a street culvert.  I have made several concrete birdbaths using the leaves from this tree or plant, and they are wonderful.  I would appreciate it if you could help me identify it or tell me the best way to transplant it to another area of my yard.  If you need more info or photos, please let me know.  Thank you, Kathy

Answer: The images you sent look like you have a Royal Paulownia tree, also called a princess tree or empress tree. It is originally from China and was introduced to this country as an ornamental. It grows quite rapidly and can reach a mature size of 50ft. x 50ft. and will bloom as soon as its second year. The tree is often planted and harvested for its close-grained, lightweight wood, which is used in Japan for everything from jewelry boxes to shipping crates. Its ability to grow in disturbed sites such as strip mines is making it popular for reclamation uses, as well. However, this naturalizing ability also makes it an invasive or “weed” species and I suggest you plant it with care.  As with most flowering and fruiting trees it can be quite messy, so do not plant it near your home or patio. 

There isn’t much information about how well they transplant. You should try to get as much of the root system as possible. It does sound like they are pretty easy to grow from seed and they are shown to be common in your area, so if your transplant doesn’t take, search around the area for another one and start from seed.

Good luck with the tree,


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