The princess tree is a deciduous tree that belongs to the flowering plants of Paulowniaceaee. They are native to China, Vietnam, Japan, and Korea. The tree was brought to the U.S. as an ornamental plant. The tree grows to a height of about 30-80 ft (12 to 15 meters). This tree is a known invasive, and in this article we will talk about how to remove a princess tree from your yard.
The plant’s genus was originally known as Pavlovnia but nowadays it is called Paulownia. It was named in honor of Anna Paulowna who was the queen of The Netherlands around the 18th and 19th centuries. The plant is usually referred to as a princess for this reason.
How to Identify a Princess tree
The princess tree has a shiny smooth bark. Its twigs are usually olive to dark brown. The tree has pale, prominent and elongated lenticels. It has a hollow or chambered pith.
Princess tree leaves are broad and oval, some leaves though have different shapes. The leaf margins are usually lobed and sometimes serrated. The leaves grow to measure around 6-16 inch wide. Leaves are usually bright green on the surface and dull green beneath the leaves.
The princess tree produces large brightly colored flowers that produce a sweet-smelling scent. Those flowers grow from hairy and stout twigs. Princess tree flowers blossom from April to May. The flowers emerge from brown and hairy buds that usually form from the preceding summer.
The fruit of the plant is capsule-shaped and contains seed pods that contain as much as 2000 winged seeds. This fruit matures in autumn and then releases the seeds. A mature princess tree has been found to produce up to twenty million seeds. The seeds are mostly dispersed by water or wind.
The princess tree has been found to produce from seeds or root sprouts. The root sprouts can grow up to a height of 15 ft in a single season. Princess trees have shallow taproots. These roots tend to grow horizontally as opposed to going deeper into the soil.
Pollen is formed in winter and insects pollinate the tree in spring. The plant usually starts flowering at the age of around 8 to 10 years. A mature plant can live as much as 70 years but not beyond that time limit.
The princess tree belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family of plants that are usually herbaceous. It resembles the catalpa tree which is a native plant. The two plants have similar leaves, flowers, and size. However, the seed pods and the pith of the plants differ considerably. While the Princess tree has a hollow pith, the catalpa tree has a solid pith which is whitish. The fruits of the catalpa tree are also considerably larger than those of the Princess tree.
Natural habitat of the Princess tree
The Princess tree is mostly found on roadsides, stream banks, and landslides. The plant frequently grows in disturbed habitats. These include those destroyed by forest fires and forests destroyed by parasites and pests. It uses its ability to withstand cutting, fire or destruction to invade an area.
It does this by sprouting from adventitious buds. The plant likes colonizing steep and high habitats such as cliffs. It thrives by competing with rare plants in these inhabitable ecosystems. It is a hardy plant that can stand high soil acidity, low rainfall, and low soil fertility.
Uses of the tree
In China, the princess tree is used as an ornamental tree. It is also popular as a roadside tree. The tree is usually recommended because of its resilience. The Chinese agroforestry system also uses the tree because of its fast growth. Its wood is light but strong. The leaves of the tree can be used as fodder to the livestock.
Princess tree flowers are also rich in nectar, therefore, aiding in the pollination of the nearby plants. The tree also forms a sparse canopy, therefore, allowing smaller plants to receive sunlight and also provides the much-needed shade by the plants.
The bark of the tree is used to make dyes. The plant is an important ingredient in making stringed instruments. This is because of its affordability, availability, tone and the aesthetic of the tree.
The Japanese people once used to plant the tree when a girl was born. The wood could be used to make a present for the girl’s wedding. Also, the princess tree is used as an important emblem in the Japanese government.
Why is the Princess tree invasive?
Despite the numerous uses the princess tree has, it also has adverse effects on the environment. The tree has been found to destroy native ecosystems in many states. The most affected states include Florida and Texas. Its fast-growing nature makes it compete with the native plants for resources.
The plant is known to invade open and disturbed areas such as riparian areas. The princess tree also produces a lot of seeds that are instrumental in its infestations. These seeds are easily dispersed by wind or water.
The princess tree also produces by way of propagation. One root can produce up to 15 other trees in a season. The tree can also withstand adverse conditions such as infertile soils.
How to Remove a Princess tree
There are various ways to remove a princess tree. Removing the tree requires an integrated approach.
These are the physical methods used to reduce the growth of the tree or to inhibit its growth. Cutting, girdling and hand pulling methods are some of the most effective ways to remove a princess tree. These methods are usually suitable for small populations of the plant because they are usually labor-intensive. It is also used in conjunction with herbicides for the best results.
This involves cutting a young princess tree at the ground level. A machete or saw can be handy in this task. It is most effective for controlling seed production. This method is usually administered when the plant starts flowering. It ensures that the seeds are not spread.
This method is mostly used when the tree is fully grown. It then becomes impractical to use herbicides. The tree is cut about half an inch deep using an axe at 1 ft from the ground. This ensures that the cut affects the cambium layer. This will result in the death of the upper part of the tree. The tree regrows, therefore, it is crucial to follow up with herbicide treatments.
This method is effective when dealing with young seedlings. The plants are usually pulled out of the soil when they are large enough to be held. Hand pulling can be done best when the soil is moist. This allows for easy pulling of the roots. Care should be taken not to break the roots when pulling it. Once the roots are broken, the plant can regrow from these roots.
This involves the use of chemicals to remove a princess tree. Herbicides containing glyphosate and triclopyr are mostly used. Glyphosate is not discriminative and harms any plant it comes into contact with. Triclopyr, on the other hand, is used when non-target plants are present. This is because it does not harm non-target plants. It is also effective in destroying the unwanted tree because of better root kill.
Foliar spray method
The use of glyphosate is usually not advised in this method. One is required to use 2% of the glyphosate and non-ionic surfactants to help thoroughly wet the target leaves. Triclopyr is the best herbicide to use in this method. It is effective in eliminating broad-leaved plants and can be used without the fear of destroying other non-target plants.
Cut stump method
This involves cutting the stem of individual trees and spraying them immediately. One should ensure that at least 50% of the tree stump is sprayed. Either glyphosate or triclopyr can be effective in this method.
Hack and squirt method
This involves making intervals of cuts into the tree stem. The cuts are then treated with the appropriate herbicide solutions.
Although the tree is aesthetically beautiful, it has devastating effects on our environment. It is a tree that takes advantage of disturbed ecosystems. Its invasive characteristic makes it a threat to desirable native plants. Therefore, it is advised to remove a princess tree.
- NC State University: GOING NATIVE: Urban planning for wildlife with native plants https://projects.ncsu.edu/goingnative/howto/mapping/invexse/princess.html
- U.S. Department of agriculture: Princess tree https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/profile/princess-tree
- Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council: Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council Invasive Plant Manual https://www.se-eppc.org/manual/princess.html