Runners under the mystery tree

I was at an out-of-town race recently, and after the race, many of the runners and spectators milled around the snack table or sat along a shaded wall. Behind the wall, there grew a very unusual and interesting tree, one I had not seen before.


Under the shade of a Paulownia tree


Paulownia seed pods (with apologies for the pictures quality from my phone instead of my usual camera)


The tree quickly became the topic of conversation among several of us, as we wondered aloud what it was. One of the runners thought he knew, and I got my phone from the car to see if his guess was correct. Sure enough, he was right: the tree was a Paulownia – or Empress – tree.

Because I had my phone, I could do a quick Wikipedia search to learn more about this strange tree and its odd seed pods that had piqued our interest in the first place. I learned that it comes from China, is considered invasive because of how easily it spreads and how quickly it grows, but it “cannot thrive in the shade of other trees.”

When I looked at online images of this tree, I realized I had seen it before after all, blooming in spring along highways. In spring, the tree’s purple blooms remind me of wisteria, a vine I think is pretty but would fight like the dickens to keep out of my own garden. So in some ways, considering that the Paulownia is invasive to this country, I guess it is the wisteria vine of trees. But it’s still a cool tree. It even has its own fan club of sorts.

What I liked about this particular Paulownia on this particular day was that it brought together a group of runners and gave us something to talk about for a brief moment other than the race (that brutal hill at the finish), the small turnout, the humidity, the awards, the last race we did, the next one coming up.

It offered a fun juxtaposition of two things I love: running and trees. I just wanted to share a bit of that fun with you today, and I hope you’re able to go out and find your own unexpected intersection of things you love.

7 thoughts on “Runners under the mystery tree

  1. I too have seen that tree and thought it was just a Wisteria vine gone rogue !!! Thanks for the clarification – loved your thoughts on the small things that bring us together.

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