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ORRIN MORRIS: Paulownia has its roots in Japan

How serious are we Christians about the quality life for all families? The Martin Luther King Jr. national celebration has global implications, too.

Consider these facts from the "World Almanac." In a list of 102 nations, 44 reported infant deaths at least 10 times higher than the latest U.S. figures. In the U.S., 6.9 infants die in the first year of life for every 1,000 born. These 44 poor nations reported between 69 and 200 deaths per 1,000 live births.

The combined population of the 44 poor nations is about 900 million or 3 times the U.S. population. Does it matter where these families live, the color of their skin or their religion?

Today we examine a small tree whose large clusters of blooms adorn the countryside in the early spring.PAULOWNIA

Paulownia tomentosaPaulownia is an Asiatic member of the figwort family. The figwort herb (Scrophularia nodosa) is only 2 to 4 feet tall but the paulownia becomes a small tree in warm climates.

Paulownia is also called the empress-tree. The leaves are very large, measuring 10 to 12 inches wide and 20 inches long. The leaves have light green veins and the hairs on the underside are slightly barbed. Thus the leaves cling to clothing when brushed by a hiker.

The blooms appear in spring and last for about two weeks. They have a lavender tint and hang in 1-foot-long clusters much like the wisteria.

The fruit is formed in a pod about the size of a pecan. The pods remain on the tree until new growth occurs in the following spring. This fast-growing small tree is occasionally cultivated as an ornamental.

Paulownia was introduced from Japan in 1834 and later escaped cultivation in the Eastern U.S. Several years ago the blossoms of the paulownia were sought by some Asian herbalists as an aphrodisiac. Though a common idea in Asia, the fad never caught on among the general American public.

Jesus' parable about the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35) should be the standard measure of our attitude toward all peoples of the world. Listen: can you hear the wailing of the mother holding the cold form of another infant who has died of hunger and disease? Jesus taught us that whatever we have done for one of the poorest among us we have done it for Him.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. This column is included in a two-volume set of books of wildflower columns he has published. To purchase the books, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center Street in Olde Town Conyers.