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Catalpa speciosa (Warder) Warder ex Engelm.
Northern catalpa, Catawba tree, Cigar tree, Indian bean
USDA Symbol: CASP8
USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.
Northern catalpa is a 75-100 ft., deciduous tree with a narrow, oval crown. The rugged winter outline is striking. Grayish- to reddish-brown bark breaks into thick scales. Leaves heart shaped with a drawn out tip and usually smooth, sometimes shallowly lobed, margins, petioles up to 8 inches long and blades to 12 inches long by 8 inches wide. Large, showy, white to lavender, bell-shaped flowers with frilled rims occur in heavy, upright clusters at the outer ends of the branches. Flowers up to 2 inches long by 2 inches wide, petals white with yellow streaks and purplish spots inside, fused about half their length and flaring into 2 unequal lips, the smaller 2 lobed, the larger 3 lobed; in open clusters. Fruit a long, narrow pod up to 18 inches in length by 1/2 inch in width persisting through winter. Fall color is poor; leaves often fall before turning.
Northern Catalpa is the northernmost New World example of its tropical family and is hardier than Southern Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides), which blooms later and has slightly smaller flowers and narrower, thinner-walled capsules. Both are called Cigartree and Indian-bean because of the distinctive fruit.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf:
Dark Green Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun
AL , AR , CT , DC , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , ND , NE , NH , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , WI , WV Native Distribution:
from w. TN & n.e. AR, to s.w. IN & e. MO; now widely naturalized in s.e. U.S. Native Habitat:
Moist, lowland woods; roadsides; waste places; uplands USDA Native Status: L48(N), CAN(I)
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Deep, rich, moist soils.
Conditions Comments: Rapid growing and relatively short-lived, northern catalpa is adaptable to many different soils and sites, but is not particularly drought-tolerant. Catalpas are major litter producers, shedding flowers, small branches, large leaves and seedpods. Brittle branches break easily in wind storms. It is susceptible to defoliation by leaf blight and the sphinx moth caterpillar.
BenefitConspicuous Flowers: yes
Very easy to grow from seeds and transplant. Seeds require no pretreatment. Catalpa will root from semi-hardwood cuttings taken in late summer or root cuttings taken in late fall. Seed Collection:
Capsules split and disperse seed in late winter or early spring. Collect fruits after capsules brown and begin to dry. Insect infestation is likely if left on the tree
too long. Dry, cold storage is recommended. Seed Treatment:
Not Available Commercially Avail:
From the National Suppliers Directory
According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:
American Native Nursery
- Quakertown, PAHill Country Natives
- Leander, TX
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Native Seed Network
- Corvallis, OR
Recommended Species Lists
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Record Modified: 2010-06-27
Research By: TWC Staff