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.
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.