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Northern Catalpa Fact Sheet

Family:  Bignoniaceae - Trumpet-creeper family
Latin name:  Catalpa speciosa
Common name:  Northern catalpa
Catalpa speciosa - Northern catalpa tree summer habit Catalpa speciosa - Northern catalpa tree winter habit Catalpa speciosa - Northern catalpa tree leaves Catalpa speciosa - Northern catalpa tree buds and leaves Catalpa speciosa - Northern catalpa tree twigs and buds Catalpa speciosa - Northern catalpa tree flowers Catalpa speciosa - Northern catalpa tree flowers and fruit Catalpa speciosa - Northern catalpa tree fruit Catalpa speciosa - Northern catalpa tree fruit Catalpa speciosa - Northern catalpa tree seeds
GENERAL: A short-trunked, broad-crowned tree, to 49', native to southern states, but now widely planted and frequently escaped in the eastern U.S. Usually planted for its shade and flowers, the wood is durable and useful for posts. (1)

LEAVES: Leaves are simple, large ovate to ovate-oblong, from 8 to 12 inches long, heart-shaped tropical looking without any lobes and are yellowish green in color. Leaves are generally opposite on large branches and often whorled in 3 on young stems.  They turn an undistinguished yellow in the fall before dropping.

TWIGS: in winter have a unique identifying characteristic. They have sunken leaf scars which resemble suction cups. Their whorled arrangement of 3 scars per node is another trait easily identified.

FLOWERS: The flowers of catalpa are perfect. Flowering takes place in late spring to early summer. They occur as large clusters of showy, white, bell-shaped corollas of 5 lobes with ruffled edges and yellow, orange or purple interior spotting or streaking. Individual flowers are showy, tubular up to ½ inch broad. They are branched in about 10 inch clusters at the stem tips.

FRUIT: Seedpods are slender and green in the summer growing from 10 to 24 inches long, looking similar to an exaggerated green bean.  They mature in the fall, turn dark brown, split open lengthwise to let seeds fall in the spring.  The shape and color of the mature seedpod gives rise to the common name of cigar tree. 

ALTERNATE NAMES: Hardy catalpa, western catalpa, Catawba, Catawba-tree, cigar tree, Indian bean tree, Indian cigar, Shawnee wood, early-flowering catalpa. The name ‘catalpa’ comes from the Cherokee Indian language as the word for the tree. ‘Speciosa’ means “showy” for the large and numerous flowers.

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Karren Wcisel © copyright 2004 - 2012

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