Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 23, Empress Tree

Posted by Erin Howe on

Paulownia tomentosa

I thought I knew a decent amount about trees, but I’m learning that I’m very much still learning. When I saw a tree with big heart-shaped leaves, I registered it as catalpa and went from there. Only later, when I happened to look closer at the tree, did I realize that it had pecan-shaped fruits instead of green-bean ones. 

Looking at range maps of each tree clears things up: I learned to identify catalpa in the west, where I went to college. Princess tree is an invasive of the southeast and Pacific northwest. Lesson learned, check twice. But all that explains why this tree is labeled “catalpa” in the photo and “princess tree” in the post title. Because I went through an update between the two. 

Such a quiet whisper of color, and almost exclusively on wool and silk, that I just took one photo of both leaves and bark:

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