The Empress Tree: A Fast-Growing and Versatile Species with Many Uses

The Empress Tree: A Fast-Growing and Versatile Species with Many Uses

About Empress Trees

The Paulownia, also known as the Empress tree or Royal Empress tree, is a fast-growing tree native to east Asia. The tree, with beautiful, fragrant tubular, lavender-colored flowers that appear in early spring before its leaves, grows 33 to 82 feet tall, with a 50-foot-wide canopy. Its large leaves are heart-shaped or come with three to five lobes. They can be nearly two feet across, especially on young Royal Empress trees. The lower parts of the leaf are hairy, as are the stems. This gives the tree the botanical name of tomentose. The leaves remind some people of the leaves of the catalpa. The bark is furrowed, and the fruit is oval, about an inch and a half long, and full of tiny, soft seeds. Millions of seeds can be produced by a single tree. These seeds are spread by wind and water, so the tree has been transplanted. The trees also propagate from the roots.

The Paulownia is not fussy about the soil it grows in and tolerates acidic and poor soils. The drought-tolerant tree will quickly populate areas burned or disturbed by natural disasters like landslides or unnatural disasters like bulldozing. The Empress tree can also grow in areas that have been defoliated, and it’s not unusual to find this hardy tree clinging to a rocky cliff or thriving at the edge of a river.

Because it can tolerate many soil types, the Paulownia can be planted anywhere in a garden. However, it won’t flourish if it’s planted in the shade. The tree is also suitable for a butterfly garden, as several caterpillars use it as a host plant.

Royal Empress Trees can grow in Hardiness Zones 4 to 10.

A young tree can grow as much as eight to ten feet yearly. Some young trees have been known to grow as much as 20 feet a year.

The tree was formally brought from China to America as an ornamental tree in the 1840s to beautify urban landscapes.

Royal Empress Trees isn’t just grown for their beauty. Their wood, which is a beautiful grayish silver, is also prized. People used wood to make boxes and chests, including marriage chests. In some Asian cultures, the tree was planted at the birth of a girl, then turned into wedding furniture when she got married. The wood of the trees is also used to make surfboards, skis, and the bodies of electric guitars. Because the tree proliferates, it can be harvested when it’s young and grow back from its roots. Wood is also used for veneers.