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The Princess Tree is an Invasive Species

Making It Grow! Minute logo

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. People fuss about our native catalpas – both species grow here bignoniodes and speciosa – saying they are weedy and then go right and plant a horrible invasive non-native tree that closely resembles catalpa. Paulownia tomentosa, Princess Tree, has similar large heart shaped leaves and a showy cluster of flowers, purple in this case. One paulownia tree can produce 20 million seeds each year, and they’re moved all over by wind or water. As a result, Paulownia colonizes cliffs, roadsides, and riparian areas where it out competes   native plants that would normally grow in those specialized places. To make control of these noxious, imported pests even more difficult, paulownias resprout from roots if they are cut or burned’ herbicides must be used to eliminate them.  Sadly, huge plantations of these trees are grown by people who bought into the story that there was an lucrative export market for their wood.

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.