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Possibly The World’s Most Perfect Tree?

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

The Empress Splendor, a member of the Paulownia family, is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as “officially amazing.” It is the fastest growing tree in the world, reaching up to 20 feet tall in its first year. Children call it the “Jack and the Beanstalk” tree because it will grow higher than them within a few months of planting. Within 10 years, the Empress will reach maturity and can be harvested for lumber. It produces an exotic hardwood that is blonde, straight-grained, and silky to the touch. It is as light as balsa yet stronger than pine, as well as being highly water resistant, making it a great choice for building furniture, blinds, veneers, sailboats, surfboards, and musical instruments.

A grove of Empress trees

Young Empress trees have massive leaves, up to 3 feet across, which absorb 11 times more carbon than any other tree. The leaves have 20% protein content and can actually be used as animal fodder.

In the late spring, the trees come into bloom with pink-purple flowers. The vanilla-jasmine scent of these flowers is irresistible to honey bees.

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: Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington State.

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

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  • Glen says:

    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

    • gary says:

      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.

  • james carroll says:

    I’m not a farmer and have no plans to harvest trees, but am interested in growing several. Are cuttings or young trees available? Thanks for whatever you can tell me.

  • David Coyle says:

    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…

  • Brandon says:

    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 says:

    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?

    • gary says:

      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 says:

    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 says:

    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?

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