The catalpa tree is a species belonging to the Bignonia family of plants. A tree that undergoes a series of noticeable changes as the year progresses, the catalpa may grow to as high as 100 feet and have a spreading crown 40 feet wide.
The catalpa originally grew in just two regions of the country before people cultivated it extensively in other parts of the United States. The northern catalpa is a tree native to the central part of the Mississippi Valley and the southern type is native to parts of the Deep South.
The leaves of the catalpa resemble elephant ears with their heart shape. They often grow three to a stem, are as long as a foot, and sometimes get to 8 inches wide.
In the spring, after the leaves develop, the flowers bloom on a catalpa. They are as long as 2 inches and up to 3 inches wide, with white petals splashed with yellow, purple and orange.
The flowers turn into fruit pods containing seeds; at first, the pods are green but eventually turn brown as the summer turns to autumn. These pods hang down from the catalpa tree, resemble long beans or cigars and can stay on the tree through the winter.
Although the catalpa is a picturesque tree, a homeowner will have quite a job cleaning up fallen seedpods as well as the flowers in the summer and the leaves in the fall.
- Northern Catalpa:Ohio Department of Natural Resources Website
- A Guide to Field Identification: Trees of North America; C. Frank Brockman;1986
catalpa tree, long seedpods, elephant ear leaves
About this Author
John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.