The Paulownia family consists of approximately 17 varieties of trees native to North American, China, Laos, Vietnam, Japan and Korea. Common names for these trees are the Paulownia, Princess Tree, Royal Paulownia, or Empress Tree. The are prized mostly for their showy clusters of violet flowers in the early spring that grow from panicles that are 3-11 inches long. The flowers themselves resemble a foxglove flower and many say the Paulownia is part of the Foxglove family while others categorize it as a member of the similarly leaved Catalpa tree. It has very recognizable large heart shaped leaves that grow on average from 6-18 inches across.
Image Citation: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources - Forestry Archive, Bugwood.org
Image Citation: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org
This is a fast growing family of trees and when young, can grow up to 20 feet in a single season. This rapid growth habit makes it sometimes weak and succeptable to limb breakage or loss as it matures. Taking advantage of this rapid growth rate, some Paulownia plantations are able to harvest lumber in as little as five years. In China the Paulownia is both a popular roadside and ornamental tree. It's wood is also used to make sound boards for many string instruments throughout Asia. The lumber is also used in many agro foresty settings as the wood is light but strong. In Japan where it is called the Princess Tree, it was customary to plant a tree to honor the birth of a baby girl and then cut the tree at the time of her marriage to craft a piece of furniture for her new home (often a dresser or chest). Because of the tight grain this type of wood it is also used to make guitar bodies, skis, chests, boxes, and traditional wooden clogs.
Image Citation: Gerald Holmes, California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, Bugwood.org
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