Catalpa Facts

Catalpa Facts
Catalpa is deciduous tree that belongs to the Bignonia family. There are two species of catalpa: southern and northern. They originate from temperate parts of North America, Caribbean region and eastern Asia. Northern catalpa is slightly larger and has bigger leaves, flowers and fruit. Catalpa thrives on fertile, moist, well-drained soil, in areas that provide plenty of sun (it tolerates partial shade). People cultivate catalpa in ornamental purposes and as a source of wood.
Interesting Catalpa Facts:
Catalpa can reach 50 to 100 feet in height and 20 to 40 feet in width (crown).
Catalpa has brownish-gray, scaly bark.
Catalpa produces very large, heart-shaped leaves that look like ears of an elephant. They are arranged in the groups of three leaves, that grow from the nodes on the twigs. Upper side of leaves is dull green colored, while the bottom side is pale green and hairy. Leaves change color to yellowish brown (or even blackish) before they fall off the tree in the autumn.
Catalpa develops showy, white, bell-shaped flowers with yellow strips and purple spots on the inner side of petals. Flowers are arranged in large panicles (multi-branched inflorescence) and they contain both types of reproductive organs (perfect flowers).
Catalpa blooms from May/June to July. Flowers emit pleasant scent which attracts bees, butterflies and caterpillars, main pollinators of this plant.
Fruit of catalpa is large, pod-like capsule filled with numerous seed. Fruit can reach 20 inches in length. Fully ripe fruit is brown colored. Capsules remain closed until the beginning of the next spring.
Catalpa produces flat, brown seed equipped with papery wings which facilitate dispersal by wind.
Catalpa propagates via seed.
Catalpa is also known as cigarette tree or Indian bean tree because of its cylindrical, elongated fruit, shaped like cigar or bean pod.
Catalpa attracts Catalpa Sphinx Moth which lay eggs on this tree. Caterpillars, known as catalpa worms, eat leaves and produce significant damage on the tree (they can defoliate entire tree). These "worms" represent excellent food for fish. That's why fishermen often plant catalpa in their yard (to ensure good source of fish bait).
Catalpa has ornamental morphology and it is often cultivated as shade tree. Cultivation of catalpa requires a lot of effort (large quantities of leaves, fruit and branches that accumulate under the tree need to be cleaned regularly). Also, catalpa is not recommended in windy areas because of its brittle branches.
Heartwood of catalpa was used in the manufacture of railroad ties in the past. Today, catalpa is used for the manufacture of fence posts, beams, furniture and millwork.
Catalpa is also used as tonewood in the industry of guitars.
Catalpa (seed) can be used in treatment of cardiac disorders, asthma and spasms.
Catalpa is perennial plant that can survive around 70 years in the wild.

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