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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Paulownia \Pau*low"ni*a\, n. [NL. So named from the Russian princess Anna Pavlovna.] (Bot.) A genus of trees of the order Scrophulariace[ae], consisting of one species, Paulownia imperialis.

Note: The tree is native to Japan, and has immense heart-shaped leaves, and large purplish flowers in panicles. The capsules contain many little winged seeds, which are beautiful microscopic objects. The tree is hardy in America as far north as Connecticut.


n. (context plant English) Any member of the genus ''Paulownia'', comprising deciduous flowering trees native to Asia.


Paulownia is a genus of 6 to 17 species (depending on taxonomic authority) of flowering plants in the family Paulowniaceae, related to and sometimes included in the Scrophulariaceae. They are present in much of China, south to northern Laos and Vietnam and are long cultivated elsewhere in eastern Asia, notably in Japan and Korea. They are deciduous trees tall, with large, heart-shaped leaves 15–40 cm across, arranged in opposite pairs on the stem. The flowers are produced in early spring on panicles 10–30 cm long, with a tubular purple corolla resembling a foxglove flower. The fruit is a dry capsule, containing thousands of minute seeds.

The genus, originally Pavlovnia but now usually spelled Paulownia, was named in honour of Anna Paulowna, queen consort of The Netherlands (1795–1865), daughter of Tsar Paul I of Russia. It is also called "princess tree" for the same reason.

Paulownia is known to be an early colonizer of sterile soils (such as after a high temperature wildfire), because its seeds are easily killed off by soil fungi. In fact, it is so difficult to start Paulownia by seed that successful plantations purchase rootstock or seedlings—or propagate their own. Remarkably, despite the fact that seeds, seedlings, and roots of even mature trees are so susceptible to rot, the wood itself is not and is widely adored for boat building and surfboards.

Usage examples of "paulownia".

He knew how the forms of life branched out from willowherb to bog orchid, waxwing to grebe, elm to paulownia, cichlid to sea-squirt.

From the time the paulownias shook down their purple flowers until autumn, epidemics swept through the districts of the poor.

He was in the six-tatami room—space being defined in Japanese houses by the number of reed mats the wood floor could contain—with only a small table, a cotton futon and a drawered naga-hibachi of burl paulownia wood dating from the early part of the nineteenth century.