Paulownia tomentosa is a tree to 15 m, bark rough with interlaced smooth areas, twigs stout sprinkled with small raised lenticels, new growth sticky-hairy, pith hollow or chambered; leaf scars round, vein scars numerous, forming a circle within leaf scar (Harlow 1946); very fast growing, indeterminate growth pattern (Gargiullo personal observation).
Leaves opposite, stalk 8-20 cm long, blade 15-25 cm long, heart-shaped, or 3-5-angled, tip long-pointed, base lobed, surface finely hairy above, densely hairy to wooly below; leaves expand late May, after blooming; winter plant leafless 193 days (Britton 1874).
Flowers blue-purple with yellow stripes in throat, showy, tubular, 5-7 cm long, in large clusters at ends of branches; blooms mid-May.
Fruit dry, hollow, oval, with pointed tip, dark brown, 3-4 cm long, Sept.-Oct., persistent through winter; seeds tiny, winged, wind dispersed through winter; seeds require light to germinate.
Wetland status: UPL.
Frequency in New York City: Common.
Habitat: Edges, escaped from cultivation, somewhat invasive. Pioneer on well-drained bare soil, disturbed areas, open successional woodlands.
Notes: Growth rate 8.02 (relative to 9.24 for B. populifolia and 0.99 for sugar maple). Growth rate was found to correlate well with relative shade tolerance (Grime 1965). Ozone tolerant. Very intolerant of shade. No major diseases or pests. A fungus, Phyllosticta paulowniae causes brown spots on leaves (Burns and Honkala 1990; Sinclair et al. 1987).