Paulownia tomentosa

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Paulownia tomentosa
© Thomas Raussen

© J.S. Peterson @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
© William S. Justice @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

© J.S. Peterson @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
Fruits and foliage
© J.S. Peterson @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
© J.S. Peterson @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Local names:
Chinese (maopaotong,zihuapaotong,ribenpaotong,zitong), Dutch (Anna-paulownaboom), English (royal paulownia,princess tree,foxglove tree,empress tree), French (paulownia de Chine,arbré d'anna paulownia), German (paulownie,Kaiser- Paulownie,filziger Blauglo

Paulownia tomentosa is a deciduous tree of height of 9-21 m at maturity, depending on site and management. Twigs smooth, brown, dotted with lenticels. Bark brownish grey with shallow fissures.

Leaves heart-shaped and enormous especially on sprout where leaves up to 3 ft across have been observed, covered with mass hairs on the underside

Flowers showy, violet or blue, perfect, in terminal panicles up to 25 cm long.

Fruits ovoid, pointed, woody capsules about 3-4 cm long, turning brown in fall when mature and persist on the tree through winter. 

Seeds tiny, winged and flat, about 0.15 to 0.3 cm long.

Paulownia imperialis was named in honour of Anna Pavlovna (1795-1865), daughter of Czar Paul I of Russia and wife of Prince (later King) Willem of the Netherlands. The specific epithet means thickly and evenly covered with short hairs in reference to the leaves.


This species  is a vigorous colonizer and has been reported as a weed for its poor form and rather large shade leaves on fertile soils. Paulownia spp prefer warm climates.

Native range

Tree management

Coppices readily. Management for quality saw logs involves good post-planting care and several stem-pruning operations. Stems are prone to fungal attacks through pruning wounds. Injuries should therefore be avoided.  In China, its source of origin, yields of 36-53 cu m/ha have been reported.

Dry fruits can be collected and opened by hand any time before they disperse their seeds.  It has been estimated that there are about 6 million seeds/ kg. Seeds are kept in dry sealed containers, or stratified between moist layers of a mixture of peat and sand.

This species  is a vigorous colonizer and has been reported as a weed for its poor form and rather large shade leaves on fertile soils. Paulownia spp prefer warm climates.

Seeds exhibit no dormancy, but light is necessary for germination. Germination can be tested on creped cellulose at an incubation temperature of 20-30°C, with light during the warm period. The rapid growth rate of Paulownia species has sparked interest in the germination of their seeds as indicated by selected recent literature. Seeds should be sown on the top of flats of milled peat, covered with clear plastic film and given light.  When seedlings are big enough to handle they can be pricked out to pots.

In the USA, for instance, it seems well adapted to harsh micro-climates on surface mines and may aid in the reclamation of such sites.

Leaves make good fodder for pigs, sheep and rabbits.

Fibre: Its rapid early growth has attracted the interest of the paper industry.

Timber: This species is not grown for its biomass alone, but also for its use as a quality furniture wood, veneer, carving and musical instruments.

Shade or shelter: It plays an important service role as a windbreak wherever it grows. 

Ornamental: its rapid growth, attractive flower, and excellent wood quality make it a genus that needs to be considered for further use in the United States.

Intercropping:  The roots occupy a different layer than most annual crops and this suggests its potential for intercropping. However when propagated by cutting, the tree forms an extensive lateral root system and loses its deep rooting characteristics.