Paulownia Siebold et Zucc.

As currently understood, Paulownia is a genus of seven species (Deyuan & al. 1998, Mabberley 2008, Freeman, in prep.), although many more have been described in the past. All species occur in China but as a result of cultivation the wild range of some has been obscured. In western Europe Paulownia is mostly cultivated as an ornamental tree but elsewhere (for instance in South America; Mabberley 2008) also for timber. According to Mill (2000) four species are cultivated in Europe but only one, Paulownia tomentosa, is common. However, in general appearance all species are much alike and more than one species might occur as an escape in Belgium. In the British Isles a fifth species, Paulownia kawakamii Ito was observed as an escape (Gibson 2003). Hybridization between several species has also been demonstrated (Wang & al. 1994, Kumar & al. 1999) and might further blur species boundaries.

Saplings of Paulownia have long been confused with Catalpa. The latter is far rarer as an escape and their separation is straightforward: leaves are always opposite, much larger (often ca. 50 cm across in young trees) and more hairy in Paulownia, while mostly in whorls of three, subglabrous (but often glandular-sticky!) in Catalpa. Moreover, in Paulownia twigs are chambered (or even hollow) while Catalpa has twigs with continuous pith (see also Nowack 1987 for differences between both genera).

Additional information on the genus Paulownia and its propagation is provided by the “American Paulownia Association” at


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Taxonomic name: 
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith