Princess Tree

Princess Tree

Paulownia tomentosa (Thunb.) Siebold & Zucc. ex Steud.


Princess tree is a member of its own family (Paulowniaceae) and is also called empress tree or royal paulownia.  This deciduopus tree grows up to 100 feet tall³ and has a life span of 70 to 125 years³.  Immature branches have large, conspicuous, white lenticels.  Trunks are gray with unriged bark and may grow to six feet in diameter³.  Twigs are up to one-half inch in diameter with a hollow, white pith.   The heart-shaped leaves are large up to one foot long and eight inches wide with smooth margins and soft hairs on upper and lower surfaces³.  The flowers, opening around Mother’s Day in Maryland,  are large,  a light lavender, and fragrant.  The fruit is a capsule with thousands of small, winged, wind-blown seeds².

Princess Tree (trunk) in Harford Co., Maryland (12/6/2015).

Trunk of princess tree. @ B. Hubick, 2015,  Maryland Plant Atlas¹.

Princess Tree (trunk of young tree) in Harford Co., Maryland (12/6/2015).

Branch with large lenticels.  @B. Hubick, 2015.  Maryland Plant Atlas¹.

Princess Tree in Prince George's Co., Maryland (7/7/2017).

Leaves and fruits of princess tree.  @ M. Biziat, 2017.  Maryland Plant Atlas¹.

A Princess Tree in Baltimore Co., Maryland (5/6/2015).

Flowers of princess tree.  @ W. Crowe, 2015.  Maryland Plant Atlas¹.


Princess tree is an introduced tree native to central and eastern China³.  It has naturalized throughout the southeastern USA and can be found on every continent except Antartica³.    It is widespread throughout Maryland¹.  It favors habitats for establishment that are recently disturbed but may be dispersed up to two miles from a parent tree³.

Distribution of princess tree in United States. EDDMapS  5 .

Wildlife Importance

Princess tree has moderate to sever invasive potential in southeastern states³.  It is listed as a Maryland invasive species 5 .

Economic Importance

Princess tree is highly valued in Asia where it is used for non-structural house construction, musical instruments, clogs, bowls, hand-carvings and paper³.  The wood’s high value promoted development of princes tree plantations for export to Japan³.


There are no serious pests or diseases to princess tree.  It is intolerant of extreme cold temperatures and may be killed at temperatures below zero degrees F 3,4 .

Interesting Facts

  • Princess tree seeds require light to initiate germination³.
  • Princess trees can grow up to seven feet in one year³.
  • The genus and common  names come from Princess Anna Paulowna (1795-1865), daughter of Czar Paul I of Russia 4 .
  • Princess tree was first introduced to the United States in 1840 5 .


  1. Maryland Plant Atlas:  Paulownia tomentosa
  2. North Carolina State Extension:  Paulownia tomentosa
  3. USDA, Forest Service Fire Effects Information System: Paulownia tomentosa
  4. Missouri Botanical Garden:  Paulownia tomentosa
  5. Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health:  Princesstree

Contributed by J. Hull

Towson University Glen Arboretum

Towson University