Sycamores and Sweetgum are broadleaf trees that are popular in the landscape design, and their rapid growth and white to blotchy bark makes them a pretty tree.
The Paulownia, has fast growth when they are young, and except for the clusters of purple flowers on the Paulownia, their best use is for borders and fencelines, or areas where they can freely fill in the bare ground.
These include, but not limited to these trees -
There may be others as well...
Few trees are more spectacular than the Sweetgum. The American Sweetgum or Red Gum is found from the southern tip of New York, across the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, and across the southern states from eastern Texas to northern Florida. The Gum, Sycamore Gum, Alligator Tree, Gumwood, Starleaf Gum, or Sapgum are all referring to the lone Sweetgum, the sole member of the Genus Liquidamber (species is styraciflua). At least it is in North America, with 3 or 4 cousins in Asia. The Gum is a member of the slightly larger Witch-Hazel Family, Hamamelidaceae.
The Sycamore Gum has sycamore-like star-shaped leaves that have a sweet pungent order when crushed. The tell-tail characteristic of the Alligator Tree is the spiny ball seed capsule it forms.
The most popular trait of the Sweetgum is the rainbow colors it makes in the fall. They change from medium green to yellow and gold, then to orange and red, then scarlet and maroon, and finally to the purple shades. How many trees have so many colors? Ok, we added a few, but they make the wide band, and a single tree often has a mix of all of the colors at the same time. They are really a sight!
One of the nice features of the Gum is they grow better on heavy poorly drained soils, and they can grow fairly fast, up to three or four feet a year after they get established. Not bad for a tree that likes heavy soils.
They like full sun and a fair amount of water, so using them in the landscape, they are good for lines, and areas where space is limited and the fall colors will get a lot of attention. The branches are not wide spreading, but the roots are. They will sprout, and gum up the pipes if given the chance. Other than that, the Gum is a hardy tree, has few pests and sturdy wood.
The trees live long, and can reach over 100 feet tall, but not any time soon, so plant them for fall color, it is a rainbow of a pretty tree.
Many trees come and go as fads, and the Paulownia is one those. There are several species of Paulownia (P. elongata, P. fortunei, P. kawakamii, P. tomentosa), all native to China, and have been planted in the US for many years. There are several other names for this tree, Royal Paulownia, Empress Tree, and Princess Tree are among them. They are rated as Zone 6, found from New York to western Texas, and along the Pacific coast states. The southeastern states seem to have quite a lot planted also.
What's popular about the Paulownia is that they grow very fast, and have large ten inch long masses of fragrant violet to dark blue flowers that come out between April and May. They tend to be medium sized trees, where the P. kawakamii gets up to 30 to 40 feet, and the P. tomentosa gets 40 to 60 feet tall. The P. elongata is used as a timber tree in China, and gets upwards of 100 feet tall.
In the landscape design, these are planted as shade trees, in places where they can spread out. As members of the Trumpet Creeper Family (Bignoniaceae), the leaves are large and almost heart-shaped. The Catalpa's are close relatives. The growth rate is very fast, and the shade they produce is very dense, perfect for those hot summer days.
These are great shade trees, fast growing, and produces fragrant flowers. They are the perfect tree? Well, maybe not. After the flowers fade, the seed capsules are formed. With almost 3 million seeds per pound, they tend to spread - everywhere. If the temperature is warm, then they can germinate in about ten days. Potentially a gardening nightmare.
Something that seems to be really odd with this tree is that it takes a few years for it to become a tree. It grows really fast, but at the end of the season, it dies. It acts like a large sunflower, rapid growth, great flower, but when its done, its a weed. It seems to take several years to get out of this stage and finally become tree-like.
Any tree that grows fast, like poplars and willows, get the attention of the paper industry. The faster a tree grows, the more carbon particles it pulls out of the air. So how many fields are growing Paulownia for paper pulp?
Is this a great tree or a weed? Since we seem to sell out of these by early spring each year, our opinion is that they are a Princess of a tree. What do you think?
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