The Q&A Archives: Grape-like Flowering Plant

Question: I have recently been to Cape Cod and while there I saw an unusual plant. It looked like a flower tree and the flowers on the branches looked like grapes falling down as if they were on a vine. They were lavender in color and stood about 6' high. They were hanging over a fence. I hope you can help me locate this plant, I would like to plant one near my fence. I live in upstate New York and we have all seasons. My soil is sandy and has good drainage. Thank you, Catol A. Salvatore

Answer: Based on your description it is possible that what you saw was a young Pawlonia tomentosa (Royal Pawlonia, Empress Tree) tree in bloom; it blooms before the leaves appear and the panicle can be a foot long and it does look like a plump bundle of grapes. Very striking!

Pawlonia will grow in zone 5, but it is not usually a recommended plant because it grows quickly to a large size and becomes a weak wooded tree. It is also capable of escaping from cultivation and colonizing areas in the wild, thus displacing our native plants. To give you an idea of its vigor, it has been used in strip mine reclamation and the paper industry.

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