‘Trees, by virtue of their universal presence, majestic yet human scale, bridging the gap between earth and air, are the rightful symbols of all which humankind aspires to in its relationship with the planet.’ Oscar Beck
A magnificent tree from Japan, the Kiri Tree, also referred to as the Japanese Empress Tree or the Paulownia, is being pioneered in Texas. Chris Sanders and Brittany Turner have started a Kiri Tree Revolution’. Their goal is to plant one million of these trees across the United States as a way to purify the soil and make it green’ again.
Not only does the Kiri Tree absorb ten times more carbon dioxide than any other tree in the world, it also expels a massive amount of oxygen. Texas suffers from extremely contaminated soil, air and water, the harmful effects of which are a constant threat to the health of its state residents. However, The Kiri Tree actually flourishes in toxic soil and water, purifying the land as it matures. It is also the fastest growing tree on Earth. When planted from seed, after eight years, it will be the same size as a 40-year-old oak tree and in one year alone it can grow up to 15 feet!
Since no one has planted Kiri Trees in Texas yet, Chris and Brittany have been experimenting with seedlings, trying to find the toughest strains that will survive the Texas climate. They are documenting their project on MySpace in the hope that this knowledge will enable the variety to be planted not just throughout Texas but all over the United States too.
The name Kiri came from the Japanese word to cut, as it was believed that the tree would grow better and quicker if it was cut down frequently. Left to grow it can reach over 30 feet in height, bearing fragrant blossoms in April or May, turning the air sweet with perfume. The leaves make great tea ñ high in protein and nitrogen ñ and the flowers are a tasty addition to any salad. Bees love the blossom too: the honey is sweet and light and there is, apparently, no other honey quite like it.
Japanese farmers once planted Kiri Trees upon the birth of a daughter because it was so fast growing that by the time she was ready to marry, the tree could be cut down and made into a tansu or chest. The Chinese have been planting Kiri Trees for many centuries around their dwellings, in order to bring good luck and to attract the mythical Phoenix. According to Chinese legend, the bird ñ a symbol of immortality that sets itself on fire to rejuvenate ñ is said to alight only in the branches of the Kiri Tree’ and that its immortality is gained from sipping the dew of its flowers’.
The Kiri Tree is the tree of the future. With its speed of growth and many uses, these lungs of the world’ are set to play an invaluable part in the survival of the human race and the rejuvenation of the planet.
Top: Chris Sanders stands under a six month old Kiri Tree. Photo: © Chris Sanders