A Gift of a Rare and Unusual Flowering Branch?

I came in the night of May 10, and was astounded to see something new in front of the latest arrangement from May 9th. Here it is:

What was this flowering branch left on my desk and WHERE did it come from??

What was this flowering branch left on my desk and WHERE did it come from??

I had no idea what this flower was. I’d never seen anything like it before. It is spring, and there are other flowering trees around, but nothing like this. On all my travels walking area roads with our dogs, I’d never seen this blossom either on a tree, or on the ground. I was stumped. As you can see, it is a light lavender, very tubular, trumpet-shaped flower, and fairly large; the blossoms were nearly 2 – 3″ long, and this branch itself was almost a foot long. The flowers also had a sepal that looked and felt like soft brown suede. So unusual. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen flower-wise. I was intrigued. I really wanted to find out what this was, and if it even grew in Pennsylvania. I did an internet search, using “trumpet-shaped purple flower”, and it was not long before I came up with a positive ID — The Paulownia or “Princess” Tree:

PurpleTrumpetFlowerSH05-06-07_2To the left is a picture of it that I found in that web search. It is an ornamental tree native to China, but was later introduced to this country. It’s extremely fast growing, and is often grown as a plantation tree for harvesting.

I don’t know why I have nearly a foot tall branch of it on my desk, but it is fascinating. Below is a picture I took of it after I put it in a glass of water overnight. I wanted to see if it would soak up some water and look a little less wilted, and it worked; it actually lasted like that for about a week, until all the flowers started to drop one by one:

The Paulownia tree flowers after I soaked them overnight in water.

The Paulownia tree flowers after I soaked them overnight in water.

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