Paulownia

flickr

Geiko Kokaji and Friend 1940s by Blue Ruin 1
Via Flickr:
Geiko (geisha) Kokaji, on the left, together with a maiko (apprentice geisha), in the 1940s or early 1950s. Kokaji appears in the 1939 Miyako Odori (Cherry Dance) programme, as a maiko.

Paulownia tomentosa or Paulownia imperialis (also Princess Tree) is an invasive species in the U.S., but it certainly is beautiful. Its fragrant blossoms brighten many an urban waste area; I see it most often along abandoned railroad tracks and by crumbling factories. In its native East Asia, especially Japan, it was once planted to mark the birth of a daughter. The fast-growing tree would mature by the time the girl was ready for marriage. The tree identified with her would be harvested and the prized wood used to create a wedding chest or small articles for her dowry.

[Botanical illustration from the Hortus Camdenensis.]

4

Some nonnatives: Aloe vera and empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa). The peach is my parent’s dumb tree that had a few flowers in November; it had a full bloom later in the winter. Luckily for it, we had an unusually warm streak of weather following two intense freezes, and now it has one billion peaches. The two other peaches in the yard were barely opening buds when I took this picture. Who knows what its deal is.

Cloak, late 18th to early 19th century, Japan. “Dark blue silk Noh theater cloak with round neck, double-width sleeves and overall design of plum trees and round paulownia crests in gold supplemental weft patterning. There are twisted reddish-orange silk cords held by carriers at the edge of each sleeve and a plain weave purple silk lining. Silk satin weave ground, gilt paper-covered silk thread supplemental weft patterning”.  MFA. (William Sturgis Bigelow Collection"