2016

 
 

Catalpa, or Catalpa bignonioides, is a tree sometimes known as Indian bean tree. It is native to the southeastern United States where Europeans first found the tree growing in the fields of the Cherokee tribes who called it Catalpa. Its vitality enables it to flourish almost anywhere in the United States and southernmost Canada.

Any Catalpa is a bold textural statement with four to eight inch leaves giving it a wonderfully coarse texture. And it has panicles of white flowers as long as twelve inches, and these flowers are remarkably showy and beautiful. From a distance they look like so many white bouquets covering the tree in late spring-early summer but closer inspection shows them to be complex and beautiful. The white flower has a purple throat with yellow spots over a frilly petal and these grow in clusters. These flowers make Catalpa, along with Southern magnolia and Ohio buckeye, the showiest native American trees, and makes Catalpa eminently garden worthy.

Catalpa grows 40 to 50 feet tall with a span of 30 to 40 feet and has a lifespan of 60 years. It is complimented with drought tolerance and the ability to withstand poor soil and pollution. Well-drained soil is optimal. Although long-lived, the massive limbs could prove brittle in snow, ice and high winds, so it shouldn't be sited to close to a structure. Like so many North American natives this species has been much improved in the UK, where the spectacular Yellow catalpa can be found in better nurseries. In addition to North America, Catalpa does well in Australia and New Zealand. And there is also a Northern Catalpa, Catalpa speciosa, better suited for cooler regions such as Lower Canada and the UK.

As usual, this special tree will not be found in the discount nurseries but more likely in a specialty, mail-order, tree nursery.

Catalpa

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