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New York City's Royal Paulownia - A Photo Feature

Empress Tree Background

The United States has stands of Royal Paulownia all along it's Eastern Seaboard. The most beautiful of these are in New York City's Central Park. The older Paulownia in U.S. parks and botanical gardens look very different from trees planted by commercial growers who demand a straight, limbless trunk and fast growth.

Legend has it that Royal paulownia was named in honor of Princess Anna Pavlovna, daughter of Russia's Czar Paul I. Other names for the tree are empress tree, princess tree and karri. Paulownia was first introduced into the United States in packing material (seed pods) sent from China where the tree is a native species. Shortly after that the tree found its way into Central Park.

 Paulownia seed and pod - Brokaw, Timberbuyers.net     Paulownia leaf - VT Dendrology
Royal paulownia leaf and seed

New York City's Central Park Paulownia

Grand examples of older paulownia grow in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. I want to highlight several photos I took in Central Park.  The paulownia here are just beginning to bud but have not yet flowered or leaved even though it is late Spring. Many of the neighboring trees have leaves. Still, P. tomentosa is very beautiful and adds character to the Park.

 Paulownia Near 7th Street and Central Park South - The Essex     Paulownia Near 7th Street and Central Park South
Royal paulownia - Central Park South

The four photos, above and below, show two paulownia trees looking out toward the skyline of Central Park South and 7th Avenue. They adorn a small hill just inside the Artisan's Gate and in front of Heckscher's Playground. Notice the native hawthorn (cratageus spp.) blooming and framing the trees below.

 Paulownia with hawthorn     Paulownia with hawthorn
Royal paulownia  with hawthorn

The last set of two photos were taken in Shakespeare's Garden, just south and west of the Turtle Pond (mid-western Central Park). This particular paulownia shows how the tree can branch in very unusual ways and is a perfect accent to the Garden.

 Paulownia in Shakespeare Garden     Paulownia in Shakespeare's Garden
Royal paulownia - Shakespeare's Garden

More on Royal Paulownia:

Facts About Planting, Growing and Marketing the Empress Tree

Silviculture of the Empress Tree

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