This is the Princess Tree or Empress Tree, Paulownia tomentosa, a tree that you can love and hate at the same time. Let's start with the love. It is planted as an ornamental in gardens and parks. It was even awarded the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit in England. It has large, colorful and fragrant flowers.
|Paulownia flowers - Wikimedia|
There is now a growing market for Paulownia as a rapid growing soft wood that carves easily and can be used in plywood. It is said to be strong and lightweight, "ideal" for surf boards and wooden boats. It is also being touted as rapid growing carbon dioxide sink. The sites selling it talk about the ease of the trees spreading and the fact that stakes cut from the stems readily root. Can you spell invasive?
|One year growth - click to enlarge|
"Rapid growing" is like calling Moby Dick a big fish. I cut the three trunks of our specimen last fall and was amazed to return this year and watch the growth. The young trunks are flexible and hang in a curve with the weight of the leaves. Richard Herman joined us and was able to pull the 12 foot high plant down for pictures. The picture on the right is one of the trunks after we cut it off at ground level without spraying the stump last fall. You can just make me out in the hat in the lower right hand corner.
5-14-2017 6 month update
We stored several of the cut 2" trunks in the garage for future use. Last week one sprouted several sets of leaves. As Bill Bryson* said, "Life just wants to be; but it doesn't want to be much."
* A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson