Why Is Paulownia Known As The Tree Of The Future?
Imagine a tree that is not only fast-growing to combat rapid deforestation but is also sturdy, yet light enough to be used for sustainable commercial purposes. These are the attributes of the Paulownia tree. Environmentalists refer to the Paulownia as the tree of the future due to its amazing versatility when compared to other species.
The Paulownia tree is native to China, which is home to over 1.2 billion Paulownia trees. However today it's cultivated in many parts of the world. In fact, fast developing programs, geared towards Paulownia tree cultivation, have been spearheaded in Australia, New Zealand, and countries in North and South America to meet the demand for high-quality timber and to reinforce sustainable forestry practices.
History of Paulownia
The Paulownia tree is a deciduous variety named after Anna Pavlovna, who was the queen consort of the Netherlands in the 1840s. This explains why the species is also known as the Princess or Empress tree. The honour was bestowed upon her when the trees first appeared in Europe and the Americas. Moreover, legend has it that Paulownias were planted in Japan when a baby girl was born, and the mature trees were used to craft dressers and other furniture when the daughter got married.
What are the benefits of Paulownia trees:
1. Easy to grow for reforestation
Paulownia trees are highly drought resistant and can be grown in temperatures between -20°C to 40°C. They are fast-growing, with some species reportedly attaining up to 6 meters of growth in one year. Due to its rapid growth, Paulownia trees can provide a good return on investment when grown commercially. Furthermore, they have great tolerance for a wide range of soil types, whether acidic, neutral or even slightly alkaline. The Paulownia tree has grown in economic importance and is fast becoming the preferred tree for rapid reforestation and agroforestry programs.
2. Carbon sequestration
With climate change a hot topic and a cause for concern worldwide, the Paulownia tree presents a viable solution to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases, deforestation, and pollution. There is a genuine need to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere, which pushes up global warming. This is known as carbon sequestration and Paulownia trees are seen as one viable option in programmes designed to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. That is because the large leaves of the Paulownia have been reported to absorb 10 times more CO2 than other trees. In return, it releases large quantities of oxygen into the atmosphere via photosynthesis. One hectare of Paulownia trees can absorb up to 100 tons of CO2 and produce 75 tons of oxygen per year.
3. Ecologically friendly with commercial value
How can a tree deliver both ecological and commercial value? Paulownia is the fastest growing species of hardwood trees and can be harvested as early as 5 years after being planted. Moreover, the trees can quickly regenerate from the roots after being cut down - a necessity in sustainable forestry. This ability for one tree to regenerate several times over is why the Paulownia has been called the "Phoenix tree."
Paulownia timber is also prized for its durability and resistance to warping. This makes it an immensely valuable raw material for furniture, veneers, rafts, panels and even paper making. It's the strength to weight ratio that makes it valuable for the shipbuilding and aviation industries.
4. Medicinal use
Paulownia trees are a reservoir of bioactive compounds. It's leaves, flower, fruit, and bark have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to treat a variety of conditions, including traumatic bleeding, asthma, hemorrhoids, upper respiratory tract infections, conjunctivitis, and even hypertension.
This study is one of many, that have sought to uncover Paulownia's potential in modern medicine. The researchers found that the flavonoids extracted from Paulownia flowers can suppress asthmatic trachea inflammation. Paulownia flower extracts have also been shown to act rigorously against Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that causes a range of illnesses from minor skin issues such as acne and carbuncles to life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis, and osteomyelitis.
Paulownia trees are ideally suited for large properties and present a viable option for carbon sequestration, agroforestry, and reforestation programs. It is a fast-growing tree that can regenerate from its roots 7 times over, the leaves are high in nutrients and make excellent fodder for livestock. The fast-growing Paulownia is an amazing tree that will fascinate, as you watch it grow...
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