Kew's beautiful specimen of Paulownia is coming to the end of its flowering
Catch it now, behind the Waterlily House
09 Jun 2010
Kew has a beautiful specimen of Paulownia kawakamii growing behind the Waterlily House, which is just coming to the end of its flowering.
Known as the Foxglove, or Princess Tree, the genus Paulownia is named after Princess Anna Paulowna, daughter of Tzar Paul I of Russia. It is grown for its large, upright bluey purple inflorescences and its enormous leaves. Native to Taiwan, China and Japan, on the birth of a daughter it was customary for the Japanese to plant one for her protection and good luck; when she married the tree was cut down and her wedding chest made from the timber.
Paulownia wood is very light, fine-grained, soft, and warp-resistant and is used extensively in Asia for making chests, musical instruments, coffins, boxes and Japanese clogs. More recently the wood has even been used successfully to make surfboards.
All species of Paulownia are extremely fast growing and timber can be harvested in as little as five years. It can reclaim ecologically stressed and degenerate land quickly, using its deep root systems which decompact the land and it can increase the organic content of degraded soil. These environmental properties have ensured its use as a reforestation tree in several countries including China, where it has halted soil erosion in the China Yellow River and Yangzte flood plains on about 3 million hectares of land. It is, however, regarded as invasive in the USA
After the storm of 1987, Kew sent several expeditions to eastern Asia to collect seeds of woody plants to restock the gardens. Tony Kirkham and Mark Flanagan collected the seed of Paulownia kawakamii on an expedition to Taiwan in October 1992. This tree was planted in April 1995, and has thrived ever since, reaching a height of 16 m in 15 years. If cut down, the tree quickly re-grows and the leaves can reach an enormous size.
In 1998 Paulownia kawakamii was listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list, with only thirteen specimens known to grow wild. This is due to its habitat destruction to make way for peach and apple orchards, as well as overexploitation for its valuable timber.
What's on at Kew Gardens
- View our events calendar to find out what's coming up at Kew
- More visit information - ticket prices, opening times and how to get here
- Explore Kew Gardens and discover new places and walking routes
Share your pictures with Kew...
- Join Your Kew on Flickr and share your favourite photos of Kew Gardens and Wakehurst Place.
- Get involved in Kew's People's Arboretum on Flickr and post pictures of your favourite trees - wherever they live in the world!
- Become a Fan of Kew on Facebook and share your pictures with our network of friends.
Browse Kew News
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew
- english garden
- for kids
- english heritage
- around the world
- for friends
- gifts that help
- the UK
- ground breaking
- at risk
- for plant lovers
- special interest
- high up
- Kew at home
- garden plants
Get updates from Kew on Twitter
Unable to parse the data in the RSS file.