Common Name(s): Paulownia, Royal Paulownia, Princess Tree, Kiri
Scientific Name: Paulownia tomentosa
Distribution: Native to eastern Asia; also planted in eastern North America
Tree Size: 30-65 ft (10-20 m) tall, 2-4 ft (.6-1.2 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 18 lbs/ft3 (280 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .25, .28
Janka Hardness: 300 lbf (1,330 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 5,480 lbf/in2 (37.8 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 635,000 lbf/in2 (4.38 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 3,010 lbf/in2 (20.7 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 2.4%, Tangential: 3.9%, Volumetric: 6.4%, T/R Ratio: 1.6
Color/Appearance: Heartwood typically a pale grayish brown, sometimes with a reddish or purplish hue. Pale white sapwood not clearly demarcated from heartwood. Overall appearance (both the wood and the tree itself) is not too unlike Catalpa, another lightweight and porous hardwood.
Grain/Texture: Grain is generally straight, with a coarse, uneven texture. Very large pores give Paulownia a striped, porous look.
Endgrain: Ring-porous, occasionally semi-ring-porous; 3-5 rows of very large earlywood pores, large to small latewood pores; tyloses common; narrow to medium rays visible without lens, normal spacing; parenchyma winged, lozenge, confluent, and marginal.
Rot Resistance: Reported to be durable regarding decay resistance, with decent weathering characteristics, though susceptible to insect attack.
Workability: Given its straight grain and light weight, Paulownia is extremely easy to work. However, due to a high silica content in some trees, the wood can have a strong blunting effect on cutting edges. Takes a wide variety of glues, stains, and finishes well.
Odor: No characteristic odor.
Allergies/Toxicity: Besides the standard health risks associated with any type of wood dust, no further health reactions have been associated with Paulownia. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Paulownia is seldom offered for sale in the United States, though it’s actually grown on plantations and exported to Japan, where demand for the wood is much higher. Prices are likely to be high for a domestic species.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Common Uses: Plywood, veneer, furniture, boxes, millwork/siding, musical instruments (electric guitar bodies), clogs, carvings, and other small specialty items.
Comments: The other Balsa. Paulownia is used in applications where a lightweight (yet proportionately strong) wood is needed. It’s widely used in Japan for construction of the koto (a stringed musical instrument), as well as other household items, where the wood is referred to as Kiri. Paulownia is one of the fastest growing trees in the world, capable of growth rates of well over seven feet per year as a seedling! But while it’s highly appreciated and cultivated in Asia, Paulownia has come to be considered an invasive species in the United States.
Paulownia was named after Queen Anna Pavlovna of Russia (1795-1865), and is sometimes called Royal Paulownia or Princess Tree.
Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Mike Leigher for providing the wood sample of this wood species.
Paulownias are really surprising. A weed i neglect to cut at the corner of low party walls in front of my house (near Lyon, France) over wintered as a bare thin stick 1.2 m high, and 3 years later it’s a 6 meter tree, very elegant and unusual in shape. I recently managed to identify it by its super large leaves via an phone app (Picture This). I can’t wait for the flowers (it is said to first flower at 8-10 years old..) wich seems to be gorgeous and said to smell very good. I don’t know how the seed… Read more »
Paulownia tementosa : World best CO2 absorber !
Also biggest Leaf in trees catégory.
Does any other tree offer flowers of such wonderful smell? I don’t believe so.
Does any perfume take its smell from the tree’s flower? It should.
Magnolia is also lovely.
I’ve had similar thoughts about Russian Olive (Elaeagnus Angustifolia).
Unpleasant as it is to keep any high traffic area around it clean; the scent of the flowers is very beautiful – if a little strong.
I have always loved the scent of mimosa trees & the flowers are so pretty & delicate looking…like little pink tutus straight out of the movie Avatar!. Mimosa trees are very messy with both seed pods, flowers & leaf fronds. They are easy to propagate in the right climate zones, & spread like crazy but are easily controlled with regular lawn mowing.
Mimosa (& Magnolia) is an ingredient in some high end, quality perfumes. I don’t know if Paulownia is a perfume additive but it really should be since it smells so delightful.
I intend making a barn door (81cm wide by 214cm high) cut from paulownia 18mm thick 8’x4′ board. Is the shear strength of this wood enough to hang the door from it’s pulleys that slide onto the rail please. Thank you
Can Paulownia be used outdoors with suitable varnishing for protection. I am thinking of using it to build the cantilever part of a cantilever pergola. The pergola posts are in autoclaved pine and the cantilevers will only bear the weight of a Wisteria vine. The attraction of Paulownia is its weight – or rather lack thereof. With it I can be assured that the overhead part of the pergola weights next to nothing.
You will lose much of the structural benefit of a cantilever by using different wood for it, you want the downward pressure so that it lifts the wood on the other side. You could use the wood for all of the top of your pergola, but there are much more suitable and available woods to use instead. If you happen to have the wood though, then yes, you can use it
I have planted si? paulovnia for building foiling and surfing board (only have to wait 6 years). Does onybody know how long should it dry after cutting trunk intro boards?
A few minutes ago I read an article on Tom Wegener Surfboards. The article is titled Ancient Hawaiian Olo (sorry, cannot link on this site, but you ought not have trouble finding it on a Google search). It mentions going from photographing the tree ready for cutting in 2005 to delivering the slabs to mill in 2008. You might ask the website’s owner, Mr. Wegener, for advice on the drying.
1 year per inch of thickness
I live in Central Virginia, USA. Recently had an Ice Storm which forced my Princess Tree to give up two of it’s large limbs. This Princess Tree is pretty close to, trunk diameter 36ins. Well over 30ft tall. One of the limbs that gave up is probably 20-24ins diameter branching off to 8-10ins diameter. The other limb is probably 12-15ins diameter, branching off to 6-8ins diameter. I do woodturning and considering attempting turning some of this wood. I have never used this wood before.
Mr. Marrs, had the some happen to our Princess Tree here in King George- I made native Indian peace pipes-
Apparently very high tannin content. Paulownia will bleed through many paint layers if not properly sealed. My lumber yard won’t sell it anymore because contractors complained.
I don’t think this is correct. It doesn’t have high tannin content or bleed through finishes in my experience.
maybe you are thinking of a different wood
This species has just been removed from the FSC’s database as a species that can be supplied with FSC certification. This arises from the FSC’s transaction verification process which revealed significant quantities of non-certified Paulownia being sold as FSC certified. So if you are offered FSC certified Paulownia then please notify FSC https://www.fsc.org
If I buy it from SE Asia and it is shipped to Australia..Is it sustainably grown and managed? Suitable for a ceiling (interior with a small exterior covered awning, cut In narrow strips?
im in the same boat
There are a few paulownia plantations here in Australia. No need to import
Well I just bought a casket made of this wood and was so curious that I had the look it up. It’s the lightest wood casket I ever bought.
And I’ve bought a lot
I acquired a slab recently from a central Tx land clearing outfit. It is very light weight. Glad to know it is strong. I had to send a sample in to the federal wood ID agency to identify. I plan to use it for the seat of a greenwood chair.
We have a small plantation in Australia. Here are some tips for growing: grow from root cuttings about 4″ long. Dry the cuttings in air for a day to harden off. Plant about 2 to 3 inches deep in spring in well drained soil, about a yard apart (or more), and irrigate regularly. Don’t try to grow them in poorly drained or hard soils. Grow until the dormant season, a few weeks after the leaves have fallen. Then use a shovel to cut out a root ball about one yard in diameter around the young tree. Cut a quarter of… Read more »
I have been working with Antique Japanese Furniture for over 20 years and Kiri is a very common wood. Kiri was prized for several reasons. It does not move very much. Boxes stay tight. It was used for watertight boxes in sea chests and in clothing chests it will not move much between winter and summer. In the old days fire was a huge issue in Japan. Everything of any worth was stored in a Fireproof out building called a Kura. The problem was the thick walls created a much cooler invironment leading to condensation. Anything stored in the kura… Read more »
Thank you Dane. This a wonderful post. I’m curious, where abouts do you live? I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area.
FYI – paulownia is gaining popularity as a component in lightweight skis. We use it, sometimes, in conjunction with hickory, but Rossignol and other major manufacturers have been incorporating paulownia in skis like the Sin 7 for a few years, at least.
Does anyone have experience with the “Spruce Pawlonia (sic) Untreated (oiled) Wood Sidings Panels” advertised by Lowes as clapboards?
Notice that Lowes online advertisement has a different spelling of Paulownia. Is this because the advertisement has a typo-error or is the Lowes product something entirely different?
Paulownia takes stain perfectly and can easily resemble Mahogany or Walnut with the right stain.
It’s a fabulous tonewood! I used it for the soundboard of my flagship guitar. My problem is availability the the US. It’s rarely available and VERY expensive. If I could get enough, I doubt I’d ever use spruce or cedar again, really!
Find someone in the southeast u.s. Who wants rid of it, or volunteer for an extermination of this invasive in Smoky Mtn Nat’l Park….
Or better yet, start a plantation in New Mexico or West Texas. The climate here is right and the ground, while hard, becomes excellent when it is tilled and amended. The other benefit here is that you can solarize the soil in the shortest amount of time and these trees would shoot up out of solarized soil.
They need quite a lot of summer rain
the trees grow insanely fast and weedy in the northeast/mid-Atlantic region. I would hesitate to start a plantation anywhere knowing how weedy and difficult to eradicate they are
Paulownia is considered by the Japanese to be resistant to moths. One of its traditional uses was in the building of bridal kimono cabinets, presented by the Bride’s Mother to her daughter on her wedding day. It used to be the practice for the parents of a daughter to plant a Paulownia Tree during the first year after birth in order to provide the lumber to be used to construct their bridal cabinet.
Plantation grown Paulownia is very available in Australia from plantations in Western Australia and Queensland. Some sell direct.
Is paulownia good for building hot tub? Sauna?
What are pros and cons of building a log cabin with Paulownia?
The Paulownia is an excellent wood for the packaging because it is very light but resistant. It can be used to pack many items in different sectors, fashion accessories, wine bottles, musical instruments etc…
Why does it state paulownia wood is not good for construction, but it is nearly identical to western red ceder and western red cedar is used to make homes/log cabins in the eastern United States and all over Canada. Comments please?
Robert people are using Chamfer strips or timber fillets made out of Paulownia in construction. We have satisfied customers using them on their sites.
Very different from western cedar… much less resistance to insects for one. Lighter and harder too.
I have had one of these trees growing on my land about 17 years. The guys cut it down, but there are many more ‘babies’ growing from the roots. It is called an Empress tree and really does grow fast. It only lost a few limbs to Hurricane Katrina. The spring flowers cover the ground and one can smell it several houses away. I have burned fallen limbs in my wood stove. They pop and burn easily. A hurricane this year took down one of my old live oaks, so I plan to cut some boards just to see if… Read more »
With this wood are also made of wood boxes such as this photo, the Italian brand Woodstar Milano. https://woodstar.it
soon I will be planting 200 seedlings excited new farm of paulownia’s hope to have many more growing soon.
Were you able to plant it and how is it growing ??
Yes, how are they growing? Pics would be cool.
I owned a tansu which was made in Japan ~1910’s. It was made from Paulownia as were most of the others in the shop where I bought it. Very lightweight but impressively well-built – mostly tight joints and some wooden pins to secure the back panel. It was actually two separated pieces: the lower chest of two long drawers and and upper of one long and three shorties on top. Simple but elegant hand-hammered hardware with working locks on each drawer. Unfortunately I sold it when I had to move and downsize, much to my regret. Similar in finish and… Read more »
Looking for a paulownia reman plant. Im looking to buy cutstock. Can anyone steer me in the right direction?
Georgia is doing an eradication program.
Georgia is the home of the World Paulownia Institute. It grows seedlings for sale and also has plantations for the timber. It’s a DISGRACE to even think about eradicating this valuable resource.
Paulownia is also used to make surfboards. In particular, it is a popular choice for the Alaia; a traditional Hawaiian surfboard. The Alaia is thin, quite flat, and is made from a solid wood. Paulownia is stronger than balsa (another common surfboard wood), while still being light enough for the Alaia and other types of surfboards. It is said that Paulownia surfboards can be finished with tung or linseed oil while balsa surfboards must be sealed with resin or varnish.
Yes, i have a lot of experience using paulownia to make surfboards and subsequently many other things. It is harder and slightly denser than balsa and doesnt absorb salt water. It is in fact the perfect timber for the job whereas balsa really is not suited but was used as there was nothing else light enough available “back in the day”. I am about to use paulownia to build the awning windows for our new house. It is a dream to work with, is durable (if soft) and weathers beautifully. After witnessing its performance in the ocean with only linseed… Read more »
Hi Benavitch, I have just started building a Paulownia SUP, I glassed the last one which was Cedar.
I was tempted to just glass the rails where it gets scraped by the paddle occasionally, but would like to keep the board as eco friendly as possible, so minimal glass would be good.
Do you think this would work on a 9 ‘6″ sup?
I was wondering the same thing. Did you end up building one out of paulownia?
It’s perfect! Use no glass at all, just seal it with linseed and let the rail fend for itself.
I bought a rustic entertaining tray made from this wood … should I varnish or rather oil it to prevent any food stains on it and make it washable?
Paulownia is very soft, but tough. I have been working it on my lathe. A less-than-razor-sharp cutter tends to rip out chunks, leaving 1/16″x1/4″ divots which can be smoothed with 60 grit sandpaper. A sharp cutter leaves a better surface and I start with 100 grit. Lots of sanding gives a smooth, but bumpy, surface. The softer summer growth is removed faster than the tough winter growth, and this is obvious when the growth rings are an inch wide. A very sharp cutter and a light touch minimize this problem. The tree has a hole in its heart and resists… Read more »
According to wiki, “Its low silica content reduces dulling of blades, making it a preferred wood for boxes to hold fine Japanese edge tools.”
Which is oddly the except opposite commentary in the article above. I wonder which is true, if either?
This is an interesting observation. We have at least anecdote from the above commenter (frequently sharpening his lathe tools) that there is silica in the wood. I’ve not worked with the wood to such an extent that I would have noticed the silica one way or another. It’s noteworthy that some books state that the wood causes dullness of cutters because of silica content (such as James Flynn’s “Guide to Useful Woods of the World”), while other books state that it has a “low silica content.” Maybe it is a misunderstanding? To me, just about any presence of silica would… Read more »
I would think that the Japanese are correct. They have been making boxes for sharp edged tools for a long time, I would guess. The above commenter notes that “A less-than-razor-sharp cutter tends to rip out chunks…” So it may just seem like the lathe tools get duller faster when cutting Paulownia. It does seem to me that there is something of a smear campaign against Paulownia trees – even more so than against invasives like stink trees (Ailanthus altissima). There doesn’t seem to be one good thing about Ailanthus altissima, while there are many positive attributes about Paulownia trees.… Read more »
Well, you also have to take into consideration of how Japanese woodwork and treat their tools. They usually have a different style that probably complements the Paulownia rather than working ‘against’ it. They take care to sharpen their blades often and that their planes stay in good condition, and repurpose more often.
You also have to take into consideration of how Japanese woodwork and treat their tools. They usually have a different style that probably complements the Paulownia rather than working ‘against’ it. They take care to sharpen their blades often and that their planes stay in good condition, and repurpose more often.
Exactly this! I talked to the owner of a Japanese furniture factory in Kamo (near Niigata) that worked in paulownia exclusively. He mentioned that the craftsmen in his factory use a different style of woodblock plane than the traditional style. It was specifically for dealing with paulownia.
He didn’t tell me the specifics, but I believe he mentioned that the blade angle was shallower.
I think it depends on the land, whether Paulownia is logging from plantation source (i.e. in China, USA) or slow growing trees in Japan where is different type of land.
The similar comparison could be beetwen plantation Teak and Burma Teak.
btw. a big amount of silica [%] is in Burma Teak and it does not mean disaster, on the contrary it gives to wood weather-resistance.
“One of them came loose from the lathe jaws and bounced off of my temple. The resulting black eye was impressive…I was curious, so I tried to break it by throwing it, hard, at the concrete floor.” Curious. uhHUH. LOL.
Paulownia is used in construction and is an EXCELLENT wood for inside and OUTSIDE trim, siding and molding.
Compared with the typically used Radiata Pine or Eastern White Pine it is naturally rot resistant, does not cup or bowl or shrink when drying, is more resistant to splitting when installed and has a much better R value then the pines. Last but not lease it much more difficult to light on fire.
Paulownia catches fire incredibly quickly. We use it in our wood stove to start our fires. It catches amazingly fast.
Very soft wood, commonly sold in Taiwan for construction and decoration… not very useful as far as wood is concerned, too soft and not really strong like pine (another common construction wood). However this wood makes wonderful charcoal for making black powder!
Here there is a lot of information. I hope it is usefully https://greemap.es/paulownia-2/paulownia-characteristics-of-wood/?lang=en