Having learned that my Catalpa trees were NOT Catalpa trees, but Paulownia trees, I had to find out what qualities they possessed.
It seems that Paulownias are slowly becoming an extremely important world timber crop. They are one of the fastest growing trees; up to 20 ft per annum. They can be harvested in as little as 5 years. And they naturally regenerate from the sawn stump.
The timber is used for various purposes. Soundboards of stringed instruments, surfboards, clogs, and chests, are amongst the most popular.
Traditionally, in Japan, they were planted when a girl was born, and the timber used to make a dresser for when she married; a bit like the planting of roadside Poplars here in France which were cut down to pay for a daughter's wedding.
Another interesting aspect of the Paulownia is its financial value as a crop. It is claimed (in a USA video that I watched) that a 6 year old tree sells for between 6,000 and 10,000 dollars. CAN THAT POSSIBLY BE RIGHT? I think he might have his figures slightly wrong, otherwise every farmer in the world would stop growing food in exchange for Paulownia!
Another USA source tells me that the timber fetches 800 dollars per cubic meter (I buy my oak for €40 per cubic meter). A simple calculation reveals that for a tree to sell for 10,000 dollars, it would need to contain over 12 cubic meters of good usable timber. That sounds like a helluva lot to me!
I shall wait a while before I plant up our entire property with Paulownias; I can envisage a slight fall in the market.
This Paulownia example (above) is in my village, right opposite the church, and is probably the source of the seeds that were later deposited by birds in the woods where I found my saplings.
I had a close look at it when I took the photo yesterday, and I noticed that it has a LOT of dead branches. I do hope this is not usual, as I hate dead branches on trees!