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Empress Jewel Trees {Paulownia}

Empress {Jewel} Trees

Also Known As Paulownia

A Truly Remarkable Tree

Botanical Names:
Paulownia fortunei {Empress Diamond}
Paulownia elongata {Empress Emerald}
Paulownia tomentosa {Empress Ruby}
Paulownia kawakamii {Empress Sapphire}

The Empress tree has many wonderful attributes both environmentally and commercially. It has proven to be environmentally beneficial by decreasing the salinity while increasing soil fertility. It is also known to produce 3 to 4 times more oxygen than any other known tree while also removing carbon from the air thus decreasing the pollution that is damaging the ozone layer. The large leaves are high in protein thus providing good food for animals or livestock. Also when the leaves fall and are blended into the soil they make a nice natural ground fertilizer. The large blossoms and flowers have been used in Royal Bee Honey production in the Orient. The high water content and being a hardwood makes it a natural insect repellent. In a landscape setting the Empress tree is wonderful. It gives the other trees, shrubs and flowers a chance to grow around it because the seeds cannot infiltrate the beds to sprout and take root thus allowing them to grow and flourish.

A lot of the parts of the Empress tree are used today in accepted Chinese medicine to help in restoring hair growth , reduce foot swelling, healing bruises and treat patients having hallucinations or delirium. The Chinese in the last 5 years have planted 1.2 billion Empress trees for forestry and lumber production.

The empress is the fastest growing hardwood tree on earth. This tree can grow up to 20 feet the first year {some have been documented growing 12 inches in 21 days!} Each time it is cut it will grow back faster due to the established root structure. It does not need to be kiln dried and is very stable. While not widely recognized in the United States for its commercial purpose it has been sold for landscaping due to its fast growth and beautiful flowers. It has been widely recognized (for decades) in Japan and China for its commercial use.

It is believed that it was introduced to the United States by the importing of porcelain from Asia in the 1830s. The seedpods were used for the packing material to ship the delicate porcelain. When the pods were thrown away they sprouted into trees throughout the East. Of coarse when people found out that the tree could be reproduced from the root cuttings, it spread all along the East coast. Only in the last 10 years has the Empress tree began to be somewhat recognized here in the states for its commercial use. The efforts of such associations and companies like American Paulownia Association and World Tree Technologies are to be commended.

There are numerous legends and myths associated with the Empress tree. Here are a few. The first written record was around 1000 B. C. in the Chinese encyclopedia Erh-ya which contained natural and cultural objects. It gave admiration to its beauty and wood and is the only known record of the primitive Chinese natural history.The Chinese name for the Empress tree is {'Wu Tong tree}. The empress is native to China. It was introduced to Japan. In a Japanese document dated 1049 A. D. it mentions that Empress lasts longer than pine, fir or oak. In Japan when a daughter was born the father would plant an Empress tree. Upon the engagement of the daughter the tree would be cut and a dowry chest would be crafted from the lumber. Also the other pieces of the tree would be made into objects for the immediate family and the toppings for firewood or ground cover. Up until the 1970s when blight wiped out the Japanese Empress the practice of using the whole tree in some way was considered to bring good fortune to the home and all who visited. The Empress tree became so respected in Japan that the leaves and flowers were added to the Order of the Paulownia founded by Emperor Meiji in1888. The honor is given to high-ranking diplomats and officers who have displayed outstanding civil or military duties. It is the highest honor Japan bequeaths. It was given to General Douglas Macarthur in 1960.

In developing countries where land has been damaged by poor agricultural and industrial practices, the Empress tree may be the ideal solution for reclaiming the land.

Any of my creations may be crafted utilizing Empress wood. I will donate 3% from each sale of any item made from Empress wood to World Tree Technologies toward the continuation of their work in utilizing the Empress tree for the improvement and beautification of our environment.

Woodworking Properties & Characteristics

Botanical Name: Paulownia kawakamii

Empress lumber although a hardwood is very soft (one of the softest in the world.)

The lumber has minute movement in service (very stable) that in producing products with multiple pieces would be a great advantage.

Air-dries quickly with little or no defects (again very stable).

It routs, shapes, planes, drills, carves and cuts well with either high speed tool steel or carbide tipped cutting tools, it also does not tool burn easily. Cutting tools seem to dull at an average rate. Cutting tools should be kept quite sharp as the wood has a tendency to chip out, tear or splinter. In routing a person should take several shallow passes (1/32 inch or less) until appropriate depth is achieved.

Turns well on a lathe. Due to the softness of the wood it is best when turning miniature pieces to use the highest possible lathe speed. Sharp tools should be used at all times when working with this wood. Care should be taken to use slight pressure and remove a minute amount of wood at a time due to the tendency to tear out.

Glues very well with carpenters yellow glue or polyurethane glue.

Sands well with all types of sandpaper (no gum up).

Stains well but the wood should be preconditioned before staining due to the softness of the wood to eliminate blotching.

Polishing will produce a good luster.

Due to the softness of the wood, deep thread wood screws should be used for fastening multiple pieces of this wood together or other parts to it. It nails well and no pre-boring is needed.

If finished naturally it will age to a darker tone (usually 2 to 3 shades.) It is open pored, usually straight grained and some lumber may produce a slight lace figure. Has a pale brown or sand color with light gray, brown or black markings.

Because the wood is so soft it should not be used where strength is a factor.

This wood is not durable in an outdoor environment.

the lumber can cost $5.00 -$12.00 per board foot depending upon the grade, thickness and width.

Copyright Johnny W. Morlan 2003

Acknowledgements & Reference:
World Tree Technologies

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