Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Fast Growing Empress (Royal) Paulownia Tree

Chapter One: The Package

Lydia Van Doran signed for the package from the UPS driver. She took a quick look 
to see if there were any directions concerning this particular sapling. She saw three 
Chinese symbols printed on the outside and read them out loud.


She traced the graphics with her fingertips and then looked back at her new plant.

“Gus, come in here and look at this sapling.”

Gus got up from his computer and walked over to the workbench. “Wow. 
It’s growing right before our eyes,” he said running his fingers along the trunk of the plant.

“I’m going to call Dr. Cartwright and have her look at it.”

“Do you really need to call your professor now?” Gus asked. 
“I was looking forward to a quiet evening with just the two of us.”

“I think she needs to see it. This is unusual, right?”

“You’re right. I’ll get a tape measure.” Gus walked through the nursery 
and out the door to the garage.

Lydia called her graduate advisor, Dr. Veronica Cartwright, and explained 
the situation. Then she sat down at the workbench in her refurbished nursery. 
Lydia had all the latest features installed including a polycarbonate greenhouse 
with cooling, heating and adequate ventilation. There were sprayers, soil 
sterilization and pasteurizing equipment, heat lamps, as well as her regular 
supplies of garden tools, pots, fertilizers and soils. She also had her microscopes, 
slides, glass tubes and other tools for research.

Her doctorate in Horticulture with a focus on the use of recycled materials for 
compost and the aeration of depleted soils was almost complete. She had built 
a state of the art environment for research and now from a practical standpoint 
her husband, Gus, expected her to use it to grow plants to landscape their
 long neglected yard which had only been used as a test site for the aeration 
potential of different recyclable materials.

Her first effort to beautify their yard was to order a sapling for a fast growing 
Empress (Royal) Paulownia Tree. She heard about it on Oprah and was
looking forward to a full shade tree with lavender flowers adorning their 
yard but this sapling was growing too fast. In all her studies she had never read 
about a plant with this growth rate.

“This is unreal.  It is getting too big to keep it indoors.” Gus exclaimed 
when he returned with the tape measure. “Did you reach Dr. Cartwright?”

“Yes. She will be here in about an hour.”

The trunk had already grown five inches in length and another inch in diameter. 
Gus let out a low whistle. It increased in size while he was measuring it. 
“Where did you get this thing anyway?

“I ordered it online from Sapling International. The trees can be found all over 
the world but this one came from a Tibetan monastery in China. They were 
originally planted throughout the Orient whenever a daughter was born. 
It is suppose to bring good luck to her family and when she married it was suppose 
to be cut down and the wood used to make her a wedding chest and other gifts.”

Are you trying to tell me something?”
 “What?” “Are you pregnant?” “Me? No. I just bought a plant for the yard.” “Wishful thinking on my part I guess.” “Don’t worry honey, we’ll get busy making babies once this doctorate is finished,” she said walking over to him and kissing him on the forehead. “Hey, maybe the tree will be like Jack’s magic beanstalk and tomorrow we can climb up through the clouds and find the money to pay for this doctorate.” “Maybe you’re spending too much time playing fantasy games. Look how much bigger its gotten since we’ve been talking. The tree is another three inches taller and four new branches have sprouted.” Lydia took a pair of clippers and cut the new branches.

“Why did you do that?

“I’m going to start some more saplings. Maybe we can have our own online 
business for really fast growing Empress Royal Trees,” Lydia laughed while placing 
the branches in some glass tubes filled with water. She could see roots already starting 
to form.

“Yeah, we’ll be rich.”

There was a low rustling sound as the sapling continued to grow. Lydia noticed 
the buds forming on the branches. “We’re going to have flowers before we know it. 
Oh, there is one now.”


“See that furry pea sized bud. It’s just waiting to burst into a huge flower but 
I didn’t think they are not suppose to bloom until spring.”

Gus put his nose up close to the bud. “It smells something like a gardenia or a jasmine.”

“Yeah, that’s what it’s is suppose to smell like.”

“Great.” He rubbed his eyes and then blew his nose. “These leaves are as big as 
my hand,” he said as he held the large tropical leaf.

“They’ll get bigger. They can be over a foot wide. They’re supposed 
to be great air filters and pull pollution right out of the air. The trees also 
withstand droughts and grow in almost any kind of soil.”

“I think that’s Dr. Cartwright at the door. I’ll let her in.” Gus hurried to the front 
door and unlocked and opened it. “You got here fast.”

“I came as soon as Lydia called. She sounded pretty excited. I wanted to see
 the tree before she planted it.”

“She’s out in back.”

They heard a loud scream and ran through the house and into the nursery.

Lydia had unwrapped the burlap from the soil surrounding the base of the tree. 
The roots were reaching out like long tendrils. One wrapped around her wrist. 
She pulled herself free. “Do you believe this?”

“Gus do you have a video camera and tripod?” Dr. Cartwright asked.


“Set it up. We need to get pictures of this. No one will believe us unless they see it.” 
Dr. Cartwright said. “How long have you had the sapling?”

“An hour before I called you. What should we do? Look at my cuttings 
they’re outgrowing the glass tubes.” Lydia tried to laugh.

“Have you looked at the growth cells under the microscope?”

“Yes. Take a look. The vacuole in each cell is larger than normal.”

“Let’s plant them. Gus, keep the camera running and follow us. Lydia, get some 
holes dug outside. I want to plant the smaller cuttings as well.”

Lydia grabbed a shovel and Dr. Cartwright took the smaller plants. They walked 
out the back door and into the yard. Lydia quickly dug three small holes ten feet apart. 
Dr. Cartwright dropped the saplings into each hole patting the soil to stabilize the new plant. 
Lydia started digging a larger hole for the biggest sapling.

Dr. Cartwright went inside but couldn’t carry the tree by herself. The roots kept 
winding themselves around her arms. She called out for help. Lydia came in and 
they carried it out and planted it in the ground. Gus recorded everything.

When all the saplings were stabilized Dr. Cartwright told Gus to take some still shots. 
She turned to Lydia and asked, “Can we get some lights out here to record any 
growth during the night?”

“I suppose. Gus, do we have lights and a chair? What else will we need if we are
going to take shifts watching this thing?”

“The camera, a notebook, something warm to drink, and some music should do it,” 
Dr. Cartwright said.

“Get me the stuff and I’ll take the first shift. What do you want me to watch for?”
 Gus asked.

“Watch for growth and any changes like added branches, flowers or anything unusual,”
 Lydia said while she set up the items needed to make her husband comfortable.

“Lydia and I will be in the nursery,” Dr. Cartwright said, “I want a closer look 
at the cell structure.”

The full moon rose overhead and offered additional lighting in the yard. Gus had 
the tripod and camera set-up with wires running back to the nursery. He had 
extra memory cards available for the long night ahead. Three halogen lights were 
also set-up by the largest sapling.

“Concentrate on the largest plant and take incidental shots of the smaller ones 
when we change shifts,” Dr. Cartwright said before she left him on his own.

He didn’t remember sleeping but now he was wide-awake standing in front of a half grown 
Empress (Royal) Paulownia Tree. He checked his watch. No one had come to relieve 
him during the night and the sun was starting to rise on the horizon. He must have 
fallen asleep after midnight. He looked around at the other plants and they had 
caught up in size to the one he was supposed to be observing. He checked the 
camera. “Ouch, it is out of memory.” He quickly replaced the memory card 
and went inside to find Lydia and Dr. Cartwright.

Both were asleep in the nursery. Lydia was sitting at her computer with her 
head nestled in her arms. Dr. Cartwright was at the workbench, her eyes 
closed and her head slumped forward. They jumped when he came in. 
Lydia spoke first, “What’s up?”

“The sun’s rising. We must have fallen asleep. The trees are almost full grown.”

Dr. Cartwright headed for the restroom and Lydia ran outside with Gus. 
The four trees created a canopy of shade covering forty feet. She could see 
the purple flowers open up in the early morning sun. Gus took her hand and they 
watched the beauty unfold. By the time Dr. Cartwright joined them there were 
several flowers on the trees. Early morning joggers and walkers stopped to 
view the wonder emerging.

Lydia realized she had planted the trees too close together. They could reach 
over fifty feet high and they were well on their way. “What are we going to do? 
They don’t have room to grow much bigger.”

“You’re going to have to trim them. Cut them back to the main trunk and branches,” 
Dr. Cartwright said and then returned with Lydia to the nursery.

“What do we do with the cuttings?” Gus asked but didn’t get an answer 
because the two women were deep in conversation discussing the phenomena 
of this fast growing tree.

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