Possibly The World’s Most Perfect Tree?

Trees are a magnificent gift from Mother Nature. They provide us with food, lumber, shade, and heat. But one tree, the Empress, a sacred tree of the Orient, has long been revered for its fast growth and quality wood. In Japan it is the emblem of the prime minister and is associated with good fortune. In North America farmers are choosing to plant the Empress as it grows very fast and produces beautiful, hardwood lumber.

The Fastest Growing Tree In The World

Young Empress trees have massive leaves, up to 3 feet across, that use a super powerful form of photosynthesis to fuel it’s incredibly fast growth. It also is extremely efficient at sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, fixing nitrogen back into the soil, and the springtime blossoms are packed full of nectar and pollen loved by bees and other pollinating insects.

Not only that, Empress trees will regrow up to 7 more times after harvest from the same root system, making it a truly renewable resource.

A grove of Empress trees

Origins and Uses of Empress Trees

The Empress was found in native North America, with fossils dating back 40,000 years. However, because the tree does not like long periods of cold it was wiped out during the ice age. It was re-introduced from China 200 years ago and used as an ornamental tree due to its beautiful foliage and flowers.

The trees respond well to organic farming methods and are useful for inter-cropping with other plants that require partial shade. For example, coffee farmers use Empress trees to provide shade for their coffee plants.

Free Trees for Farmers

One company, World Tree, is helping farmers reap the rewards of the Empress, and they’ve started a free tree program. World Tree provides the trees, trains the farmers on how to grow them, and then finds a buyer for the lumber.

Only the Non-Invasive Species

There are 23 species of Paulownia, of which one (the tomentosa) is invasive. Farmers plant non-invasive varieties which only produce sterile seeds that can only be propagated by taking root cuttings.

World Tree Company is currently seeking farmers in the following areas: Alabama, Georgia, northern Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, eastern Texas, Tennessee, Oregon, northern California and Washington State. The company is also now partnering with farmers in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Guatemala.

girl at tree

To learn more about how the Free Tree program works, visit World Tree’s web site.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Farmers' Almanac 2018 - Landfowl

This article was published by the staff at Farmers' Almanac. Do you have a question or an idea for an article? Contact us!

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I am horrified that you are even suggesting this highly invasive plant be planted ANYWHERE outside its native habitat. Even if individual plants are being sold as “sterile”, you just cannot guarantee there will be no cross-pollination with a wild invasive in the next yard over. Please please please do not plant this tree in your yard. Once it has taken root, it is almost impossible to get rid of, because; as they note above, it will keep regrowing from its root system multiple times(!). And it creates thousands of seeds in a season that you will never know if they are truly sterile or not. Do we want another kudzu problem in the south? Just stick with putting plants native to your area in your yard, please, for the good of the environment. It needs all the help it can get!

Last edited 2 years ago by Elizabeth
Edna Cerini


J. Weaver

I have had an empress tree (Paulownia) for 23 years now. No problems. no invasions. no litters of trees in the yard. Either I have an unusual tree or there are a lot of urban legends regarding these trees. It is beautfiul and I receive many compliments on it.

Sharon Fiely

Will these grow in west central Ohio. My husband and I are looking to replenish our 6.5 acer woods because we loss a lot of trees due to the emerald ash borer


I would suggest Tulip Poplars if you’re looking for a fast growing alternative. Find native trees to our Ohio climate, instead of this one. Maples are a good choice too. This one is way too invasive, and I think Ohio gets a bit too cold for them any ways.

Ruby Freeman

How do I know if the tree I have is the aggressive one?

Ed B.

I planted one of these when I lived on Long Island. I was very impressed how fast it grew and we enjoyed it. However, now in Florida, would one grow in the very sandy soil?

Susan Higgins

Hi Ed B. We include a link at the bottom of the story, perhaps you can contact the organization for some growing tips.


The Paulouwnia trees were planted as investment farming in Australia & was a huge failure .I grew one in & old chicken pen & it grew to 10 feet then died ,a lot of friends had a similar experience : was told they had to grow on side of mountain with good soil & drainage


Place where I used to work, had a gravel storage yard surrounded by building. When I left, these things were sprouted at several walls, and were six to eight feet tall. Kept expecting maintenance crews to cut them down, but they never did. Thing is, they sprouted and were growing in a six to eight inch layer of gravel.

Roger douglas

Hhhow do I get to grow the trees paulownia


I have several of these trees…. They grow just fine!!! I live in NC. I can even dig up a shoot, plant it, grow it, chop it to the ground and it will STILL grow!!! LOL. They grow super fast and are awesome for shade!

Susan Higgins

Hi James, you can visit the World Tree’s web site here: https://worldtree.info/

David Coyle

Please do not plant these trees. They are not native to North America. To say there are “invasive” and “not invasive” species is suspect at best…


You need to read up on them. There are 23 varieties and only one is invasive. Tomantosa var.


Are the roots of this tree going to mess up a foundation or a water main drain? i want to replace an oak sapling with one.

Sarah Corson

Question: I noticed only one sentence that mentioned “organic” method of production. Although our land is now freshly clean-cut of pines, the trees surely have left a lot of seeds from the last 20 years of their growth in the soil. How would you recommend keeping them clean of weeds and other trees without using poisons?


If stumps are low enough, or removed, regular mowing is best way to control without chemicals. But, will have to be done often.

Cathy Key

Hi Jody .. great question. The tree has a deep, tri-tap root system. I would not recommend planting it near to a septic tank and drain field. Better safe than sorry.

Judy Dodson

I see the water requirements, but wonder if the roots being close to septic system and drain field will be detrimental to the septic tank and drain field? One of the spots where I lost a tree which needs to be replaced is very near the septic tank. Replacing a pine tree which was in one spot and it had only one tap root and did not hurt the system. Will this tree hurt the system?

Plan Your Day. Grow Your Life.

Enter your email address to receive our free Newsletter!