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Immigration in Action, or the Peanut Paulownia Panorama

My favorite tree, the Paulownia Tomentosa is in bloom now, and today I had an opportunity to visit a large stand of Paulownias that grow about a mile east of the Coppahunk Swamp, on route 460 in Sussex County. The Paulonia tree is not a native species. It came to this country by accident because the seeds, which are very fluffy, were used for packing material in shipments from China years ago. The seeds leaked out of boxes of Chinese imports and today, Paulonia trees grow throughout the eastern US, especially along rail routes.

I liked the juxtaposition of the peanut billboard with these Paulonia trees. The peanut, so closely linked with the identity of Virginia, is another non-native species. Peanuts apparently originated somewhere in South America, were taken to Africa, then were brought to North America from Africa by Europeans.

400 years later, the little patch of North America pictured here is dominated by immigrant plants growing along the roadside and advertised on the billboard. We should just accept the fact that this is a small planet where we all need to coexist. Borders are an antiquated concept. (See The Indigenous Fish Manifesto item #2. )

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5 responses

  1. O3

    April 22, 2010 at 10:32 pm

  2. Nice pix of paulownia but how do you know they are tomentosa?

    April 23, 2010 at 8:29 am

  3. boatdog

    David, that’s a good point. I’m not sure and not well informed on the different varieties that exist. I was told at one time that all the trees that grow around here are tomentosa, but that could be wrong. If you can link me to information that would help me identify the species, that would be helpful. I’m looking to plant this tree in my yard.

    April 23, 2010 at 9:16 am

  4. Brian Vick

    I’m very familiar with that stand of Paulownia trees, having traversed Rt. 460 hundreds of times between Suffolk & Richmond. I always thought those trees were planted to provide the seed pods as a food source for the hog farm on that property, but it’s actually the leaves that can be used as forage for many types of livestock. Here’s a site that offers the fast growing variety: http://www.paulowniasupply.com/paulownia_plantings_order.htm
    If you want to try & culture your own from seed, grab some seed pods in the fall. Old Towne Petersburg has several mature trees within arms reach in the alleys, and I’ve seen several along the sidewalks in Oregon Hill.

    April 25, 2010 at 10:44 am

  5. boatdog

    Thanks Brian. I’ve tried growing from seed before with no luck, which was sort of frustrating given the fact that these trees propagate on their own in gravel and cracks in brick buildings! I’m looking to plant two of these in my yard and just got approval from the architectural review board (wife) yesterday. Thanks for the link.

    April 25, 2010 at 11:06 am

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