Paulownia tomentosa is native to China. The tree is also referred to as royal paulownia, empress tree or princess tree and is a fast-growing, deciduous tree that is primarily grown for its profuse spring bloom of foxglove-like flowers and its large green leaves.
It was first introduced into Europe in the 17th century. The tree typically grows to 12 meters tall with a rounded crown. It is noted for its profuse bloom of fragrant, pinkish-lavender flowers (to 5cm long) with interior dark purple spotting and creamy yellow striping.
Flowers appear in spring in clusters (to 35cm long) before the foliage appears. The flowers aroma is reminiscent of vanilla.
Flowers are edible and are sometimes added to salads.
Paulownia is currently placed in its own family. Genus name honors Anna Paulowna (1795-1865), daugher of Tsar Paul I of Russia. Tomentosa from Latin means having soft woolly hairs.
Paulownia tomentosa can be grown for valuable timber or can be coppiced for biomass.