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Paulownia [paʊˈlɔnɪ.a] is a genus of six to 17 species (depending on taxonomic authority) of flowering plants in the family Paulowniaceae, related to and sometimes included in the Scrophulariaceae. They are present in much of China, south to northern Laos and Vietnam and are long cultivated elsewhere in eastern Asia, notably in Japan and Korea. They are deciduous trees 12–15 m (39–49 ft) tall, with large, heart-shaped leaves 15–40 cm across, arranged in opposite pairs on the stem. The flowers are produced in early spring on panicles 10–30 cm long, with a tubular purple corolla resembling a foxglove flower. The fruit is a dry capsule, containing thousands of minute seeds.

Paulownia imperialis leaf 345.jpg
Paulownia tomentosa foliage
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Paulowniaceae
Genus: Paulownia
Siebold & Zucc.

Six to 17 species, including:
Paulownia catalpifolia
Paulownia coreana
Paulownia elongata
Paulownia fargesii
Paulownia fortunei
Paulownia kawakamii
Paulownia taiwaniana
Paulownia tomentosa

Paulownia fortunei flowers and bark

The genus, originally Pavlovnia but now usually spelled Paulownia, was named in honour of Anna Paulowna, queen consort of The Netherlands (1795–1865), daughter of Tsar Paul I of Russia. It is also called "princess tree" for the same reason.[1]

Paulownia is an early colonizer of sterile soils (such as after a high temperature wildfire), because its seeds are easily killed off by soil fungi. In fact, it is so difficult to start Paulownia by seed that successful plantations purchase rootstock or seedlings—or propagate their own. Remarkably, although seeds, seedlings, and roots of even mature trees are so susceptible to rot, the wood is not and is used for boat building and surfboards.

Fossil recordEdit

Paulownia once occurred in North America, with fossil found leaves in Tertiary strata of Ellensburg Canyon of Washington state.[2]

Paulownia macrofossils have been recovered from the late Zanclean stage of the Pliocene sites in Pocapaglia, Italy[3] and Paulownia caucasica macrofossils have been recovered from strata of the Serravallian stage of the Miocene in Georgia in the Caucasus region.[4]


In China, it is popular for roadside planting and as an ornamental tree. Paulownia needs much light and does not like high water tables. Paulownia grown on plantations generally has widely spaced growth rings, meaning that it is soft and of little value; wood with close growth rings is harder and of higher value.[citation needed] It is important in China, Korea, and Japan for making the soundboards of stringed musical instruments such as the guqin, guzheng, pipa, koto, and gayageum.[5][citation needed] It is also becoming more popular in the building of electric guitars, due to its affordability, availability, tone and looks. Paulownia was recently used in the making of a Brad Paisley Fender Telecaster guitar.[6]

Paulownia is also used in Chinese agroforestry systems because it grows fast, its wood is light but strong, its flowers are rich in nectar, its leaves make good fodder for farm animals, it is deep-rooting, and it is late-leafing and its canopy is quite sparse so that crops below it get both light enough to grow and shelter.[7]

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.

Paulownia is known in Japanese as kiri (), specifically referring to P. tomentosa; it is also known as the "princess tree". It was once customary to plant a Paulownia tree when a baby girl was born, and then to make it into a dresser as a wedding present when she married.[citation needed] Paulownia is the mon of the office of prime minister and also serves as the emblem of the cabinet and the government (vis-à-vis the chrysanthemum being the Imperial Seal of Japan).[citation needed] It is one of the suits in hanafuda, associated with the month of December.[citation needed] Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia states:

Paulownia wood is very light, fine-grained, and warp-resistant. It is the fastest-growing hardwood. It is used for chests, boxes, and clogs (geta). Its low silica content reduces dulling of blades, making it a preferred wood for boxes to hold fine Japanese edge tools. The wood is burned to make charcoal for sketching and powder for fireworks, the bark is made into a dye. The silvery-grey wood is sliced into veneers for special visiting cards.[8][9]

A Japanese Kobundō (小分銅), 95–97% gold, "Paulownia" Kiri () mark, Kikubana (菊花) emblem, 373.11 grams, Japan

More recently, it is used as body material for low-cost electric guitars and as the core for lightweight touring skis.[citation needed]and surfboard cores.[10] It is often used in guitars as the core body, then laminated under a more durable wood, such as the Dean ML XM that is made of Paulownia as the body but is topped with mahogany.[citation needed]

Paulownia is extremely fast growing; up to 20 feet in one year when young. Some species of plantation Paulownia can be harvested for saw timber in as little as five years. Once the trees are harvested, they regenerate from their existing root systems, earning them the name of the "Phoenix tree".[citation needed]

As a forestry crop Paulownia are exacting in their requirements, performing well only in very well draining soil, with summer rainfall or availability of irrigation water.[citation needed]



  1. ^ Rush Industries, 2000.
  2. ^ Smiley, Charles J. (February 1961). "A Record of Paulownia in the Tertiary of North America". American Journal of Botany. 48 (2): 175–179. doi:10.2307/2439100. JSTOR 2439100.
  3. ^ Messian to Zanclean vegetation and climate of Northern and Central Italy by Adele Bertini & Edoardo Martinetto, Bollettino della Societa Paleontologica Italiana, 47 (2), 2008, 105-121. Modena, 11 lugio 2008.
  4. ^ The History of the Flora and Vegetation of Georgia by Irina Shatilova, Nino Mchedlishvili, Luara Rukhadze, Eliso Kvavadze, Georgian National Museum Institute of Paleobiology, Tbilisi 2011, ISBN 978-9941-9105-3-1
  5. ^ "Fender Brad Paisley Road Worn Telecaster with Gig Bag". Retrieved 2017-08-03.
  6. ^ "Fender Brad Paisley Road Worn Telecaster with Gig Bag". Retrieved 2017-08-03.
  7. ^ Yungying Wu and Zhaohua Zhu (1997). "5, Temperate Agroforestry in China". In Andrew M. Gordon and Steven M. Newman (ed.). Temperate Agroforestry Systems. Wallingford, Oxfordshire: CAB International. pp. 170–172. ISBN 9780851991474.
  8. ^ Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (1993). Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993. ISBN 4-06-931098-3. page 1189.
  9. ^ Lincoln, William L. (1986). World Woods in Color. Fresno: Linden Publishing. p. 143.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Paulownia fortunei Fact Sheet". Archived from the original on 2013-10-25. Retrieved 2012-06-25. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

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