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SOLVED: Tree with purple flowers

I took three pictures of this tree, one of the flowers, one of the foliage, and one of the dried seedpods from last year.

Please check it out and see if you can recall the name. The pictures (and descriptions) are here:



Ah Ha Mary - I KNEW somebody was going to suggest Paulownia. I'm not certain that it truly is a Paulownia, but it certainly looks like it, doesn't it?


Norwich, Norfolk, United Kingdom

Could it be the Foxglove tree?

Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

Dave this is incredible - I was asking on the chat about this tree also and I too thought it might be Paulownia but I don't think it is. First of all, there are no leaves yet on the trees that I have seen but yes they do have the large seed pods. The tree looks like a giant candleabra! There are many along the highways here and the colour of the flowers is almost that of the wisteria. I'm still foxed! Unless there are different cultivars of Paulownia!

The flowers do look like paulownia tormentosa, the flowers often open before the leaves appear here in the UK

Wayland, KY(Zone 6a)

I agree, it appears to be the Princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa). This tree is beginning to be considered an invasive species in many areas of the southeastern United States.

Lake Toxaway, NC(Zone 7a)

I thought it might be the catawba tree, sometimes called the catalpa tree?

[ Removed per member request. - Admin]

Paulownia tomentosa it must be. I have seeds from this tree, given to me by Ursula in Chile. Some pictures of this species of tree:

Thanks for everyone's input. I'm glad to have a name to put with this tree. By the way, I'm seeing the common name "Empress Tree" being used a lot with this tree.


Princeton, NJ(Zone 6a)

Definately Paulownia tomentosa (a catalpa relative). As previous mentioned they are becoming the newest introduced invasive species. They are quite common along the roadsides in southern NJ and the Philadelphia area. Attractive while in bloom, they seed all over the place and tend to be weedy, although Longwood Gardens has some fine old huge ones. Paulownia blooms before the leaves develop, catalpa does not.

I added it to the plants database:


Newark, OH(Zone 5b)

Too bad it's invasive...It is certainly beautiful! At least with a self-sowing perennial or annual, you can deadhead before they set seed. Sure can't do that with a tree (unless you've got an awful lot of time on your hands, LOL).

Moorestown, NJ(Zone 7b)

Jerseyguy - I've not seen this tree being invasive in my "neck of the woods". We have one lonely tree here in Moorestown, and that's the only one I've seen. I saw it 6 years ago when we first moved here and I was working for the #1 florist in Moorestown, and even he didn't know what it was until I figured it out. It's a huge tree....had been there for ages and yet no one had ever seen another one around. Of course, it's in the middle of a parking lot too. Maybe that's why it's not invasive...nothing to grow in! There's houses w/in yards of the parking lot, I'm surprised there's not any seedlings in those yards.

Michigan Bulb Company is selling these trees.......I had considered ordering some as they are gorgeous, but they do have sticky flowers. The scent is very strong and they are messy when the blooms drop, so Dave, plant that tree somewhere ya'll won't be walking under it with bare feet.

If anyone has extras of these trees, I would love to have them for SASE.

Dutton, AL(Zone 7a)

It's Royal Paulownia.I hear the wood is very expensive and is used for musical instruments in Japan. It never gets to be as much a trash tree as Mimosa or osage orange. If any one wants osage orange for a fence I have plenty.

My Paulownia is in a corner of the farm, surrounded by plenty of open space. The tree is very large and obviously old, yet there isn't a single seedling to be found. It's the only one that I've found on this farm yet. I can't imagine this being an invasive tree here, but it may just be the particular climate here.


Princeton, NJ(Zone 6a)

O.K., let me say this , perhaps I was a little hard on this tree, however, it is definately an "escaped" introduced species from Asia. By that I mean, when conditions are to its liking it certainly has the capacity self seed and spread on its own without the aide of man, much like mimosa,ailanthus and Norway Maple have in various parts of the country. None of these trees are North American natives yet they are everywhere, especially in the east. Whenever we introduce invasive species like these, we pose a serious threat to our native trees, some of them just aren't able compete. That does not necessarily mean that Paulownia will behave in this manner in all areas, however, I have seen this tree (in bloom) growing wild, in fairly large abundance, along highways and major thorofares of the city of Philadelphia and surrounding areas. When not in bloom, you would probably dismiss it as a catalpa when growing amongst other trees or maybe not even notice it all. I have also seen wild trees popping up here and there in my area along the roadsides and in woodlands as well. That being said, it does not mean Paulownia should not be planted for its beautiful flowers, it is an attractive tree when in bloom, but you should also be aware of its potential.

Wayland, KY(Zone 6a)

The last couple of days (due to this post)I have been taking notice of the number of these trees locally. I work as an Environmental Inspector, inspecting Surface Coal Mines in Eastern Kentucky. These trees seem to be very prolific on the older reclaimed mine sites. One thirty acre site had approximately 300 to 400 of these trees in bloom.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Bluejay have you been to the Martiki coal mine yet? It's a surface mine in that area......

Thousand Oaks, CA

These trees are sold every late summer through Home Depot in Southern California as 'Sapphire Dragon Trees'. So far not an invasive species out here.

Wayland, KY(Zone 6a)

I was on the Martiki mines (located in Martin County) about 20 years ago. At that time they were starting some experimental farming practices at the mine site. I think Morehead State University was also involved. Vaguely remember touring an orchard site. The Martiki Mines are located in the same general area as the large coal slurry dam that recently failed, polluting several miles of stream.


Great Falls, VA(Zone 7a)

So coincidental...I just returned from a neighborhood birthday party and asked my neighbors about this same tree -they have one in their backyard (5 years old, pretty good size).
They seem to be scattered all over Northern Virginia...along the roadside, woods, etc. Not as common as dogwoods, but more than I ever remember (look like upside down wysteria).
I also learned from my neighbor....Commodore Perry, on his first trip back from Japan, brought these seeds (Paulownia)back to his wife via Baltimore harbour.....sometime around 1853. He also spoke of the invasiveness of these trees (one sapling can grow 40 feet in 1 year - can that be true?!), the potential poaching of these trees.....the wood is quite valuable...the larger the tree, etc.
They are beautiful....

This message was edited Friday, May 4th 10:33 PM

40 feet in one year?! I don't know. I did find a new seedling this year in the field, and I'm going to let it grow through the season to see how it does. It is already about 12" tall and twice the width of a pencil.

I'm planning to uproot it this fall and move it to a more permanent location. If it reaches 40 feet I don't think I'll be moving it. :-)


So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Dave... we have many of these trees along the highways in Western NC, esp. I-40 going to Knoxville; a Florida friend just asked me about them this week, and I said paulownia as that is what the natives here say. On the way back across the mountain between Franklin and Sylva yesterday, I was noting them and wondering why there weren't more seedlings. Maybe not too invasive in the Blue Ridge?

Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

Plenty of them on the I29 going toward Lynchburg VA.

Philadelphia, PA(Zone 6b)'re right about the Paulownia growing wild here. It's all over near the Schuykill River, Delaware River and Northeast Pennypack watershed. I only noticed the abundance of trees recently, since they are blooming now.

Louisville, KY(Zone 6a)

I have seen this tree and thought it was really cool looking too. I took cuttings and the leaves were sticky. Are the paulowia trees sticky??

Yes, Karma, and I sent her some seeds. :)


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