The Paulownia SCAM and how to avoid it
“Scam! BS! I’ll never plant these trees!” These were the kinds of comments we got on our Facebook feed when we started to promote our Free Tree program to farmers in the Southern USA. What was this Paulownia scam thing all about?
The upset revolved around two primary sore points: Firstly the belief that the trees are invasive and might damage the local environment; and second concern that the farmers would be left with acres of worthless timber. Both are very valid concerns.
About 10-15 years ago a group of people, who will remain un-named, started promoting Paulownia to farmers in the Southern States as a ‘get rich scheme’ – the so-called Paulownia Scam.
This group made some horrible mistakes. They sold an invasive variety of the tree (the Paulownia tomentosa) that farmers were told to grow on a 12x12 grid system. The trees were way too close together and grew into skinny beanpole trees, useless for timber.
The farmers, who had paid good money for the trees, were understandably upset and were left with acres of trees for which they had no buyer – this was the Paulownia scam.
It is heart breaking to hear these stories and it is important to learn from them.
Don’t plant the tomentosa
Out of the 23 species of Paulownia, there is only one that is invasive – the tomentosa. At World Tree we don’t plant this variety. We have our own premium timber varieties that we grow from tissue culture. Our primary gene stock is from the fortuneii. The seeds are sterile, but even if they weren’t they don’t propagate easily because of the shape of the flute of the flower.
Grow for premium timber
Our foresters have over 30 years experience growing trees for timber. We know how to produce good broad trunks, with minimal knots. Our team visits our farmers at planting time to train them how to prepare the land and plant for the best results. We also provide feedback and advice throughout the years to keep everything on track.
A buyer for the lumber
World Tree is bringing together the buyers for Paulownia lumber. In fact, we already have a waiting list. If you are a farmer that already has Paulownia growing on your land and are interesting in selling it to us, please get in touch.
Free trees? Really – this sounds too good to true.
So perhaps you are still thinking to yourself – well, what’s the catch? How come you are providing the trees for free?
World Tree has been working with farmers for 16 years. We hear your stories and we know that many farmers are suffering. So, we wanted to find a way to work together that was a win-win. We provide the trees, the expertise and the market for the lumber. The farmers provide the land, labor and the TLC to bring the trees to maturity. Together we share in the profits.
World Tree doesn’t make any profit until the trees reach hardwood maturity in 10 years. In other words, we have a lot of skin in the game and a vested interested in making sure our farmers are successful.
Conclusion: So is this a Paulownia scam?
No, this is not a Paulownia scam. World Tree is in this for the long haul. We have the trees, growing methods and the expertise to help farmers flourish. We are looking for good farmers with at least 20 acres who are willing to work with us for the benefit of everyone.
Learn more about our trees and farmers
Interview with Adam McClary Farmer Support SpecialistMany of our farmers know Eugene personally. He lives in upper Alabama and has been so generous with his time and knowledge. He has spoken to many of our new farmers and passed along valuable life lessons from...
World Tree’s first crowdfunding effort in the US grows as quickly as the Empress Splendor tree Time was ticking down while the number of acres were scaling up. The World Tree staffwas huddled together watching the countdown as it took place online. There were hopes...
Is it possible to have amazing adventures and do good for the planet? Stein Retzaff and his brother Thor say, “YES!” World Tree was so inspired by their story, we decided to contribute to their mission the best way we know how - by planting trees. Brothers Stein and...
“Real change occurs from the bottom up; it occurs person to person, and it almost always occurs in small groups and locales and then bubbles up and aggregates to larger vectors of change.”- Paul Hawken Climate change is arguably the most significant challenge facing...