Παυλώνια (Paulownia tomentosa)
Empress Tree

Cultivation of Paulownia - Species, Characteristics, Climate

One of China’s most significant offerings to humanity, apart from its magnificent obsessive language, is also Paulownia. The Paulownia or Empress Tree or Kiri (in simple Japanese) is of exceptional economic interest with a strong ecological footprint.

In the series of articles below, all the information required for cultivation will be attempted so that the prospective grower can form a global picture weighing its advantages and disadvantages, but also those who already cultivate it may be able to deepens its every aspect of farming.

Part One (第一部分).

Cultivation of Paulownia

Paulownia or Empress Tree in Blooming (Paulownia tomentosa)
Empress Tree in Blooming

Paulownia - Species & Characteristics

The Paulownia tree originates from eastern and central China, where it is cultivated for more than 2000 years. The genus Paulownia consists of 6 to 17 species (depending on the classification system), of which the most common are Paulownia tomentosa, P. elongata and P. fortunei.

The cultivation of Paulownia is of considerable economic interest. It is used both for the production of premium quality wood and for energy crops, for the production of biomass. It presents low concentrations of ash, sulfur and nitrogen and high calorific energy from its wood. It is also cultivated as an ornamental tree, and because of its resistance to the polluted atmosphere of the city it is recommended to plant it in parks, squares and other public places.

Paulownia is a deciduous tree of rapid growth. It reaches a height of 20 – 30 m – in China are recorded and trees 50 m high – while its diameter reaches 2 m.

Under natural conditions and within 10 years, Empress Tree develops a 30-40 cm diameter body (measured at a distance of 1.2 m from the ground) and produces a volume of 0.3 – 0.5 m3. When grown for timber production, Paulownia can, under favorable conditions, produce a volume of 1 m3 of wood per tree in 8-12 years, and according to other researchers it only takes 5-7 years to produce an equal volume.

Cultivation of Paulownia

Paulownia planting - Young Paulownia Trees (Paulownia tomentosa)
Young Trees (P. tomentosa)

Climate

The Paulownia tree tolerates a wide temperature range with a lower limit of -25 oC and higher than 47 oC. The optimal temperature is at 27 oC. Paulownia elongata withstands low temperatures up to -25 oC, P. tomentosa at -20 oC while P. fortunei -15 oC. All species are susceptible to frost, so they must be avoided in frost-frozen areas.

In China, the trees grows in conditions with a minimum annual rainfall of 500 mm and a maximum of 3000 mm. During the period of maximum vegetative growth it needs abundant water. The most drought-resistant species is P. tomentosa, followed by a decrease in resistance by P. elongata, P. Kawakami, P. Fortunei, and P. catalpifolia.

Paulownia is a light-demanding tree. Relative research on P. elongata and P. taiwaniana has shown that the light saturation point is 60,000 lux (60% of full sunshine) when for most other tree species it reaches 20,000-30,000 lux (20-30% of full sunshine ). P. fortunei and P. fargesii show the highest degree of shade resistance.

The wind can cause total or partial destruction of young seedlings and trees while it does not seem to affect old trees. At wind speeds higher than 40 km/hour, shoots and branches are broken. However, in any case, it is not recommended to plant Paulownia in windy areas where frequent and strong winds over 4 to 5 Beaufort prevail (or their speed is more than 28 km/hour.)

Cultivation of Paulownia

Empress Tree seedlings (Paulownia tomentosa)
Empress Tree seedlings (P. tomentosa)

Traditional Chinese Timbres & Empress Tree

According to recent (in imagination) research, regardless of the wind speed, the dream of love penetrates and the plant world.

Consequently, the traditional Chinese melody ‘The Dream of Love’ (春闺梦) is (in imagination) also concerned with the Empress Tree.

• China Traditional Orchestra of Zhejiang – ‘The Dream of Love’

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China Traditional Orchestra of Zhejiang – The Dream of Love (春闺梦)

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