This lovely flowering tree is about 100 years old. It was planted as part of the design for The English Gardens – a section of Regent’s Park intended to look wild and natural compared to more formal areas.
The Foxglove tree (Paulownia tomentosa) is vigorous and resilient as well as beautiful. It’s not too fussy about soil type, it doesn’t mind pollution and it can survive wildfires.
Our tree was planted on purpose, but Paulownia tomentosa – originally from China – has spread across the world in a very unusual way. The egg-shaped seed pods are soft and very light. Before the invention of polystyrene, they were used to protect Chinese porcelain when it was packed for export. Inevitably the odd packing case burst open, and the seeds spread and thrived in places like the United States and Japan.
Paulownia tomentosa gets its common English name from its beautiful foxglove-like purple flowers. Other names are Empress tree and Princess tree. An old custom in China was to plant one of these fast-growing trees when a baby girl was born. By the time the girl was eligible for marriage, the tree would be big enough to cut down and the wood was used to make articles for her dowry.
Source: The Royal Parks website