Paulownia (Paulownia tomentosa)

Paulownia (Paulownia tomentosa)

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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.

Related Species:

None available.

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Mike Leigher for providing the wood sample of this wood species.

Paulownia (Paulownia tomentosa)

Paulownia (sanded)

Paulownia (sealed)

Paulownia (sealed)

Paulownia (endgrain)

Paulownia (endgrain)

Paulownia (endgrain 10x)

Paulownia (endgrain 10x)


  1. Bhaxia October 31, 2018 at 7:09 am - Reply

    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.

  2. Michael Storer October 24, 2018 at 4:52 am - Reply

    Plantation grown Paulownia is very available in Australia from plantations in Western Australia and Queensland. Some sell direct.

  3. Shaked H September 2, 2018 at 3:01 am - Reply

    Is paulownia good for building hot tub? Sauna?

  4. Mary July 25, 2018 at 9:35 pm - Reply

    What are pros and cons of building a log cabin with Paulownia?

    • Fyl October 4, 2018 at 5:34 pm - Reply

      Very soft?

  5. Mark May 27, 2018 at 9:23 am - Reply

    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…

  6. Robert Andrewr Gall January 6, 2018 at 11:50 pm - Reply

    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?

    • John April 6, 2018 at 2:03 am - Reply

      Robert people are using Chamfer strips or timber fillets made out of Paulownia in construction. We have satisfied customers using them on their sites.

  7. Lula Porter December 9, 2017 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    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 I can make usable wood. Both of these trees will go in my home, either as ship lap or as firewood.

  8. www.PaulowniaRomania.Tk June 1, 2015 at 11:29 am - Reply

    Arborele Paulownia reprezinta viitorul in ceea ce priveste obtinerea de profit, generarea de energie si nu in ultimul rand ameliorarea starii actuale a mediului
    inconjurator isi va ofera posibilitatea de a va incepe propria dumneavoastra afacere fara a fi nevoie de investitii majore si cu zero riscuri.

    Laboratoarele Herbary care furnizeaza semintele hibrid sunt partenerele universitatilor, institutelor de cercetare si companiilor farmaceutice cu ajutorul carora realizeaza hibrizi care au caracteristici adaptate la conditiile de clima, sol si aer in care plantele urmeaza sa se dezvolte.

    Semintele sunt certificate de catre laboaratoarele Shanghai Herbary Biotechnology, detin certificat fitosanitar si prezinta urmatoarele caracteristici garantate de catre producator: puritate mai mare de 95%, umiditate sub 8%, greutate aproximativa de 0.5grame/mia de seminte, rata de germinare de minim 80%, conform cu certificatul de calitate.

    Semintele pot fi germinate atat in recipient cu solutie apa+fertilizator cat si direct in ghiveci, economisind timp si energie.

    Semintele de paulownia din pachet sunt de tip hibrid iar impreuna cu fertilizatorul special conceput oferit gratuit permit obtinerea unei rate de transformare din seminte in puieti de 80% eliminand riscul care apare la repicarea pentru plantare in ghiveci. Avantajele date de catre germinarea directa in ghiveci consta in diminuarea riscului de deterioare a plantei si in economisirea de timp, singura mutare a acestora facandu-se la plantarea in terenul de cultura.

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    Toate pachetele includ fertilizator si ghid de germinare/plantare.
    Pentru detalii consultati siteul nostru

  9. robert April 2, 2015 at 6:46 am - Reply

    soon I will be planting 200 seedlings excited new farm of paulownia’s hope to have many more growing soon.

    • tnycman December 7, 2016 at 8:35 am - Reply

      Were you able to plant it and how is it growing ??

    • PartyLikeSpock December 30, 2016 at 9:08 pm - Reply

      Yes, how are they growing? Pics would be cool.

  10. limeychiney November 4, 2014 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    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 proportion to this image.

  11. seve March 25, 2014 at 10:22 am - Reply

    Looking for a paulownia reman plant. Im looking to buy cutstock. Can anyone steer me in the right direction?

  12. Eric January 12, 2014 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    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.

  13. Tom Price November 15, 2013 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    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 rot, so I turned some flower pots (no need to drill a drain hole). One of them came loose from the lathe jaws and bounced off of my temple. The resulting black eye was impressive, but the pot was not damaged. I was curious, so I tried to break it by throwing it, hard, at the concrete floor. That made a ding. Six others have tried to throw it hard enough to break it. Dings, but no cracks.

    Some oil will bring out a warm brown color with some highlights. The logs do not check so they are good on a lathe. I am getting a lot of practice sharpening cutters because of the silica. This is fun!

    • PartyLikeSpock December 30, 2016 at 9:09 pm - Reply

      According to wiki, “Its low silica content reduces dulling of blades, making it a preferred wood for boxes to hold fine Japanese edge tools.”

      • _byron_ May 17, 2017 at 12:48 pm - Reply

        Which is oddly the except opposite commentary in the article above. I wonder which is true, if either?

        • ejmeier May 18, 2017 at 4:08 pm - Reply

          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 be a bad thing. It’s like saying that drinking water has a low lead content.

          • PartyLikeSpock July 15, 2017 at 4:44 pm

            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. Also, Paulownia trees are not NEARLY as invasive as stink trees are. Our property is getting over-run with stink trees, but not one Paulownia can be found for miles around, and they are easy to spot.

          • Hush ~ ?? October 10, 2017 at 3:50 pm

            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.

        • Hush ~ ?? October 10, 2017 at 3:53 pm - Reply

          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.

    • Lethe March 7, 2017 at 5:33 pm - Reply

      “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.

  14. Ulrich von Hollen April 17, 2013 at 8:59 am - Reply

    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.

  15. Tai Fu March 1, 2013 at 9:18 am - Reply

    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!

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