Empress Tree - Paulownia tomentosa
Empress Tree is a deciduous tree that's native to parts of China, and because it can grow very quickly, it has established a significant presence in North America. It's part of the Paulowniaceae family of trees, a family that was named by a Dutch botanist to honor Anna Pavlovna, an Imperial Highness in Russia who went on to marry the King of the Netherlands. The empress tree can reach heights between 30 and 80 feet when fully mature. The leaves of the tree are heart-shaped and can measure anywhere from 6 to 16 inches across. These large leaves provide great shade for a yard in the summer months. The leaves can be even more significant on some younger trees, especially those that have been given a good prune. When the branches are significantly cut back, there is vigorous growth in the new year, resulting in leaves that could be up to 20 inches across. After a winter of dormancy when the leaves have dropped, flowers begin to emerge in the early spring. The light pink and purple flowers are a few inches wide and emit a strong, pleasant fragrance for several weeks. Smelling the flowers and appreciating their delicate appearance can be a nice way to welcome spring. The empress tree is a good plant for a yard in which you want to prevent soil erosion. It does need to be on its own though since it will thrive in full to the partial sun as opposed to being fully shaded by taller trees and structures around it. The empress tree is tolerant to various conditions, including periods of drought. They grow well in USDA zones 5 through 11, meaning that they can withstand both hot and cold temperatures. Once planted as a young tree, it could grow up to 10 feet a year until it's mature.