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)

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John Sauer
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John Sauer

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.

Ray Price
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Ray Price

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 »

Dane Owen
Guest

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 »

Melanie Mitchell
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Melanie Mitchell

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.

Homer McLemore
Guest
Homer McLemore

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?

rooyak
Guest

Paulownia takes stain perfectly and can easily resemble Mahogany or Walnut with the right stain.

Carla Kelly
Guest
Carla Kelly

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!

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

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….

Archie Moore
Guest
Archie Moore

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.

Max
Guest
Max

They need quite a lot of summer rain

Bhaxia
Guest
Bhaxia

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.

Michael Storer
Guest

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

Shaked H
Guest
Shaked H

Is paulownia good for building hot tub? Sauna?

Mary
Guest
Mary

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

Fyl
Guest
Fyl

Very soft?

Mark
Guest

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…

Robert Andrewr Gall
Guest
Robert Andrewr Gall

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
Guest

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

Lula Porter
Guest
Lula Porter

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 »

Marco
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Marco

With this wood are also made of wood boxes such as this photo, the Italian brand Woodstar Milano. https://woodstar.it
comment image comment image

robert
Guest
robert

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

tnycman
Guest
tnycman

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

PartyLikeSpock
Guest
PartyLikeSpock

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

limeychiney
Guest
limeychiney

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 »

seve
Guest
seve

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

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

Georgia is doing an eradication program.

Eric
Guest
Eric

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.

Tom Price
Guest
Tom Price

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 »

PartyLikeSpock
Guest
PartyLikeSpock

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_
Guest
_byron_

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

Hush ~ ??
Guest

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.

Jonahss
Guest
Jonahss

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.

Jozef
Guest
Jozef

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.

Lethe
Guest
Lethe

“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.

Ulrich von Hollen
Guest
Ulrich von Hollen

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.

WindsWrangler
Guest
WindsWrangler

Paulownia catches fire incredibly quickly. We use it in our wood stove to start our fires. It catches amazingly fast.

Tai Fu
Guest
Tai Fu

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!