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" or the "emperor tree" for the same reason.
Evidence in peer-reviewed scientific literature support that Paulownia is native to North America. In a February 1961 article in the American Journal of Botany, Charles J. Smiley reported finding fossils of Paulownia Tomentosa leaves in Tertiary strata of Ellensburg Canyon of Washington state. Dr. Smiley described the structure of the leaves and, ruling out all similarly structured leaves, identified them positively as Paulownia. He examined fossils of many more trees in the Ellensburg formation and identified them as trees that normally co-habitate with Paulownia. He described the climate of what is now the northwestern United States during the Tertiary Period as being essentially ideal for the growth of Paulownia and he attributed reduction of North American Paulownia to glaciation in later ice ages.
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. In korea it is also used as pillows and other health beneficial traits