Princess Tree

By William T. Hathaway

Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa)

The other day while walking along Danville's River Walk Trail, I came across a tree whose branches were heavily laden with huge clusters of seed capsules. It was obvious to me that this was the fruiting princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa) whose lavender flowers usually bloomed in the month of May, followed by the appearance of seed capsules in July. Experts say that the individual capsules may release as many as 1,000 small seeds. In the past 20 years I had noticed how this aggressive tree was rapidly spreading throughout local woodlands and disturbed areas within Pittsylvania County.

The wood is considered valuable in the manufacture of many items in Asia; shipping logs to Japan is a growing export business.

I take pride in presenting this photo, since many students have asked me, “What is that tree with lavender blooms?” I could answer with several titles: empress tree, royal paulownia, princess tree, etc.