This handsome tree originally from China is one species of the only tree genus in the Scrophulariceae (figwort or foxglove family). It is seldom seen as far north as Belfast although there is a huge specimen in Rowallane garden in County Down which does flower. When young it is extremely fast growing and is sometimes grown in gardens as a coppice for its leaves which can be as much as 30x40cm. The species name means hairy which applies to the leaves. These are similar to the leaves of the Indian Bean tree, Catalpa bignoniodes although the flowers and fruit are quite distinct.
The highly fragrant flowers are produced in bunches in early spring, before the leaves open, from fat hairy buds that can be seen on the branches the previous summer. The flowers are a pale bluish shade and in a favourable climate can cover the tree. The young tree in Belfast Botanic Gardens has yet to flower but is in a warm sheltered position so should flower in future.
Note added 2019: it flowered last year - 2018
|Young Paulownia in Belfast Botanic Gardens (behind the palm!)||Flowering Paulownia tomentosa in a Paris square|
|Leaves of Paulownia tomentosa||Shed flowers under a Paulownia tree|
Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2009. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.
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