Yesterday, while traveling on the Natchez Trace between Natchez and Vicksburg, I did a double take when we passed by some trees on the side of the road. At first, I thought their bright bluish-purple clusters of flowers were Wisteria, but as we got closer, I could tell that the flowers were "spiky," and growing upright instead of cascading from a vine like Wisteria blossoms do.
We turned around and went back, and I, very carefully (as in "looking for snakes"), made my way down a hillside covered with wildflowers and thistle, and captured some pictures of the trees and flowers.
When I got home, I downloaded my pictures and did a quick search of Google Images, to try to identify the trees, but was unsuccessful (the closest I could find was a tree called Jacaranda, but its leaves aren't the same).
If any of you gardeners or tree experts who read this know what kind of trees these are, would you please let me know? Here are some close-ups, including a couple of pictures of their leaves (you can click on the pictures to enlarge them).
As I was taking pictures of the trees, I enjoyed the company of this pretty yellow Swallowtail who was happily exploring the thistle blooms surrounding me ...
As if the colorful "mystery trees" weren't enough, the butterfly was nice lagniappe for a beautiful Spring afternoon.
It didn't take long for someone to identify the tree for me. Here is a comment I received from Dot, who lives in North Georgia:
"This tree is called Royal Empress tree or Paulownia. A very quick growing tree that kids love to climb in once it is strong enough to hold their weight."
Thank you, Dot, for taking the time to clear up the "mystery" for me. I googled "Royal Empress" and found the following information:
There has been lots of hype generated lately about the Royal Empress tree. It's one of those almost "too good to be true" plants, a fast-growing, easy-to-care-for, shade-producing hardwood, that has cascades of beautiful flowers. It does have its downside, however ...
The Royal Empress tree originated in China and was bought to the United States about 160 years ago, and has since become an invasive tree in many parts of the country. It grows in most any type of soil, and has an uncanny ability to survive fire, drought, logging, and even bulldozing! It is best known in our eastern and southeastern states, but grows from coast to coast, though not in the northern plains states or parts of the upper Midwest. There are so many wondrous tales told about the tree that you would think everyone would want to have one. They are very fast growing. You can't sit back and watch it grow, but its daily growth is measurable.
I also read that it can grow up to 15 feet in a year! Sounds kind of like kudzu in tree form, doesn't it!