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Paulownia is also known as the ‘princess tree’ because it was once customary to plant a tree like that when a baby girl was born, and then to make it into a dresser as a wedding present when she married

Ian Harvey

Paulownia, also known as the ‘Princess Tree’ or royal Paulownia, is a genus of 6 to 17 spices of flowering plants in the family Paulowniaceae.

It grows rapidly, especially in disturbed places, including steep, rocky slopes that may also be habitats for rare plants.

Paulownia fortunei flowers and bark. Photo Credit

The name ‘Princess Tree’ was given in honor of Anna Paulowna, queen consort of The Netherlands who was born in 1795 and died in 1865. She was the daughter of Tsar Paul I of Russia.

Paulownia is known in Japanese as ‘kiri’ and as ‘Princess Tree’ because it was once customary to plant a tree of this kind when a baby girl was born, and then to make it into a dresser as a wedding present when she married.

This paulownia flower pattern (go-shichi-no-kiri) is the symbol of the Office of the Prime Minister of Japan. It also decorates the Order of the Rising Sun and the Order of the Paulownia Flowers. Photo Credit

Mature Paulownia trees are often structurally unsound and rarely live more than 70 years.

This tree can reproduce from seed or root sprouts, and the latter can grow to over 5m in a single season. Seeds germinate within a few days on a suitable substrate, growing more quickly and flowering in 8-10 years.

Paulownia in Roma, Chiesa Nuova. Photo Credit

This tree’s wood is very light, fine-grained, and wrap-resistant. It’s the fastest growing hardwood, used for chests, boxes, and clogs.

To grow, the tree needs a lot of light and doesn’t like high water tables. It’s a very good insulator and has a high-temperature resistance.

Paulownia tomentosa Sieb. & Zucc. Photo Credit

Presented in China, south or north Laos and Vietnam, the tree has also long been cultivated in eastern Asia for over 1,000 years, notably in Japan and Korea. Today, the tree is used as a body material for low-cost electric guitars and as the core for lightweight touring skis. In China, it is popular for roadside planting and as an ornamental tree.

However, that’s not the only purpose of Paulownia in China. Because of its fast-growing ability, the tree’s flowers are used as nectar, and its leaves to make a good fodder for farm animals.

Leaves of the empress tree. Photo Credit

Some spices of the family Paulowniaceae can be harvested for saw timber in as little as five years. Once they are harvested, the trees regenerate from their own existing root systems.

Read another story from us: The oldest tree in the world was alive when Stonehenge was under construction and around the time humans developed their first writing system

That’s the reason why these trees are also called ‘Phoenix Trees’.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News