Paulownia tomentosa

Paulownia tomentosa

The Paulonia (Paulownia tomentosa (Thunb.) Steud.) Is an arboreal species belonging to the family Scrophulariaceae.

Systematic –
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Order Lamiales, Family Scrophulariaceae and therefore to the Genus Paulownia and to the Specie P. tomentosa.
The term Paulownia imperialis is synonymous.

Etymology –
The term Paulownia was given to the genus in honor of the Grand Duchess Anna Paulowna Romanov (1795-1865), daughter of the Tsar Paul I of Russia, married to King William II of the Netherlands. The specific epithet tomentosa derives from tomento, from the Latin tomentum, hair, padding; term however of uncertain origin.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The Paulonia is an orignary plant of the central regions of China, later introduced in Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century, for ornamental purposes, where it soon spread in city parks. Today, in addition to China, it is also cultivated in the USA, Israel, Australia and also in Italy.

Description –
Paulownia tomentosa is a tree that reaches 20 meters in height, with its foliage expanded horizontally. The plant is characterized by a straight or often inclined trunk, with thick, clear, brownish-gray rind, furrowed longitudinally and wrinkled. The leaves are deciduous, simple, with a petiole about 10 cm long and a large lamina, up to 30-35 cm long; they are ovate and sharp at the apex, sometimes with three slightly incised lobes. Both the lamina and the petiole are covered by a dense hair (hence the name of the species).
The flowers are fragrant and of lilac color, they are about 6 cm long and appear in the period between May and June; they are gathered in terminal panicles, erected above the crown. The fruits are ovoid capsules dehiscent at maturity, which release winged seeds, small and blackish that are carried by the wind.

Cultivation –
For the cultivation of the Paulonia take into account that it is a plant that does not tolerate the prolonged and late frosts and desires a sunny or medium-sun position, in loose soils rich in organic substance.
As for water supplies, adult plants are satisfied with rains while young ones should be irrigated only during periods of prolonged drought if the soil is completely dry.
For the provision of nutrients it is advisable to plant a well-ripened organic fertilizer at the foot of the plant at the beginning of spring and then to proceed with periodic fertilization at least once a year.
The plant propagates by seed in spring and by woody cutting in autumn. The seeds are germinated in cold seedbeds (outdoors) and in the following autumn, the young seedlings can be planted. Plants to flower will take 6 years.
To reproduce by cuttings it is necessary to choose portions at least 8-10 cm long, which must be placed in a mixture of sand and peat. The container that receives them must be kept in the dark at a temperature of 18 ° C.
At the end of February, the cuttings of Paulonia should be exposed to light until the appearance of the leaves, then in late spring they will be transferred to larger containers and only in the autumn can they be permanently put away. It is a fast-growing species with its peak in the first three years of life.

Uses and Traditions –
Paulownia tomentosa, together with Paulownia elongata, is the most important species of the genus Paulownia. The timber usually comes from crops in the central Chinese provinces, along the Yellow River, even if there is no shortage of crops in the USA, Israel, Australia and even in Italy.
Because of the peculiar botanical and ecological characteristics of the genus, the Paulonia is a typical “multifunctional” tree, able to supply different types of products and services at the same time.
This tree is grown for ornamental purposes, for wood for processing and for biomass.
Paulonia wood has a density of 300-400 kg / m³, with poorly differentiated sapwood and heartwood of a yellowish-white color and an open-pore coarse texture. It has a very high stability, a very low hardness, a very high durability and a very good workability, even if it lacks sealing for screws and nails and absorbs a lot of glue; moreover it has an excellent painting behavior.
In addition, the wood of Paulonia has a slightly intense but characteristic odor when the wood is fresh; it is pleasant (sa of bread) when seasoned sawn. It is a wood that is very resistant to the attack of animal parasites (not to be tared), resistant also to the propagation of wood mushrooms (they find it difficult to spread in the particular porosity of this wood). It oxidizes easily, but only in the most external part. Contains polyphenols.
The wood of Paulonia is therefore used for various purposes: from furniture, to fixtures, to wooden boxes, structural wood, etc. one of its major qualities is however that of lightness combined with high flexibility and durability, but low stiffness, which makes it unsuitable for structures that require high rigidity.
In addition to the uses already mentioned, the Paulownia tomentosa can be used for the use of leaves and flowers, with which you can obtain medicines and feed for livestock.
Moreover, due to its abundant flowering it is a great source of nectar for bees, which can produce honey exclusively from this plant.
The Paulonia can also be used as windbreak and cover an important ecological role, due to its phytodepurative capacity, as it is able to collect large quantities of nitrogen from the soil), for the extraction of carbon dioxide from the air (in quantity very important given the speed of growth) and for the ability to intercept the coarse dust thanks to the down that characterizes the leaves of this species.

Preparation Mode –
From the leaves and flowers of the Paulonia, thanks also to the presence of polyphenols, it is possible to obtain medicines, as well as livestock feed.
You can also obtain a uni floral honey in the case of plantations of high extensions.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experience with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only and do not in any way represent a medical prescription; there is therefore no liability for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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