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Kentucky Color: Royal Paulownia Tree

Royal Pawlownia Trees, of Asian origin, the "Pony Tree" of the Great Wooded South Lexicon, is rarely planted, but auto propagates as an act of nature
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By Billy Joe Fudge, Retired District Forester
Kentucky Division of Forestry

The seed pods of one of the Royal Paulownia trees at the old Sparksville School Building somewhat resemble the flesh eating Venus Flytrap and are stuffed with as many as 2,000 seed.

Hey Billy Joe, what about those old Coffee Trees? Hey Billy Joe, what about those Elephant-eared Trees? Hey Billy Joe, what about those Big Leafed Trees? Hey Billy Joe, what about those trees with those purple blooms? Hey Billy Joe, I've got some kind of odd Catalpa Trees, what about that? Hey Billy Joe, somebody came up out of my woods wanting to buy my Pony Trees, what about that?


These are but a sampling of the hundreds of questions I've received over the last 4 decades from folks wanting to know about Royal Paulownia or the Royal Princess Tree. It is a tree of Asian origin that was imported to this country and planted as an ornamental. Although it is a very unique tree with lavender blooms and whitish, silvery, smooth bark it is rarely planted in landscapes but ends up there a lot as an act of nature. It is now naturalized in much of the Eastern and Southern United States.

The flowers are indeed a beautiful, blue lavender and can be seen in early spring before the leaves emerge. The wood is very valuable in Asia and most of the logs harvested in this area are exported to Japan and China. They grow very fast and can be 40 feet tall and ready to harvest in less than 15 years.

Their opening seed pods somewhat resemble the flesh eating Venus Flytrap and may contain as many as 2,000 seed. The seed pods hang on the tree all winter and every time the wind blows a few more seed go looking for bare moist soils that are out in the open with plenty of sunlight. That is why you see Royal Paulownia growing on dozer slash piles, bare roadsides, beside your newly installed sidewalk, flower beds, and even rock outcroppings and rocky road cuts. One of the many places to view them in full bloom is on the Adair County side of Green River Hill on Hwy 55. Look for them this spring; you'll enjoy their unique display. - Billy Joe Fudge


This story was posted on 2012-03-13 09:12:12
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Kentucky Color: Royal Paulownia tree in winter



2012-03-13 - Sparksville, KY - Photo By Billy Joe Fudge.
These seed pods of one of the Royal Paulownia trees
at the old Sparksville School Building somewhat resemble the flesh eating Venus Flytrap and are stuffed with as many as 2,000 seed. The sulfur colored panicles in the background will soon erupt into clusters of bluish lavender flowers.

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