Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Tree fit for a Princess

Yesterday on my run, as I was crossing over GW Parkway while leaving Roosevelt Island Parking lot, something caught my eye. It was a collection of remarkable purple flowers:

A quick Google Image search leads me to believe that it's a Paulownia tomentosa, more commonly known as a Princess tree. Because of my vantage point on the bridge, I didn't really have a chance to photograph the leaves or other parts of the tree, so I plan return to confirm positive identity. But assuming it is a Princess tree, how cool is that?

And here's your fun fact about the Princess Tree:

In China, an old custom is to plant an Empress Tree when a baby girl is born. The fast-growing tree matures when she does. When she is eligible for marriage the tree is cut down and carved into wooden articles for her dowry.

This page also mentions that tradition, and includes this tidbit

– With the Jewish culture:

“In ancient Israel, a tree was planted when a child was born—a cedar for a boy, a cypress for a girl. As the children grew up, they cared for their own trees” – Tree planting ritual

Here's more on that tradition.

For the record, flowers are edible.

What a find!

Update: Last night I explicitly ran by the tree above to grab some more photos. Here's a few I snapped:

Comparing these to other sites on the web confirm (at least to me), that this is Princess Tree. Having now found this sample, I've actually seen them all over the area. There's a number of them that I've passed dozens of times along GW Parkway. With the bright purple flowers, they're actually hard to miss, once you know what you're looking for.

So yeah, the DC area has Princess Trees. Plenty of them. Amazing. Absolutely amazing.


  1. I'd love to know when you get a positive I.D. for this. I love the traditions of tree-planting you mentioned. What great ideas!

  2. > I'd love to know when you get a positive I.D. for this.

    I'll report back once I get a chance to re-run this route.

    I saw a few potential princess trees on my run last night, but didn't have time to inspect them...

    > I love the traditions of tree-planting you mentioned.

    I know, so cool right?!

    1. Very cool, indeed. I'll be waiting to hear more about the tree.

  3. Barbara -

    As I just added to the post, this is a Princess Tree. And they're all over DC, Ijust never noticed them.