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Northern CatalpaCatalpa speciosa

  • Northern Catalpa - Catalpa speciosa
  • Northern Catalpa - Catalpa speciosa
  • Northern Catalpa - Catalpa speciosa
  • Northern Catalpa - Catalpa speciosa

This is a tree that demands your attention. White, showy flowers. Giant heart-shaped leaves. Dangling bean-like seed pods. Twisting trunk and branches. How could you not stop to take it in? And with all of these unique features, the northern catalpa is popular with kids as well.

While not ideal for every location, this unique and hardy tree is a fast grower that finds a home in parks and yards throughout the country.


Hardiness Zones

The northern catalpa can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 4–8. View Map

Tree Type

This tree is considered a shade tree, a flowering tree and an ornamental tree. It features a spreading canopy capable of blocking sunlight, blooms in a profusion of spring flowers and adds visual interest and beauty to landscaping.

Mature Size

The northern catalpa grows to a height of 40–60' and a spread of 20–40' at maturity.

Growth Speed Medium to Fast Growth Rate

This tree grows at a medium to fast rate, with height increases of anywhere from 13" to more than 24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree, meaning it prefers a minimum of 4 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The northern catalpa grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, silty loam, well-drained, wet and clay soils. A wide range of moisture conditions can be tolerated, including some flooding and extremely hot, dry conditions.

Attributes

This tree:
  • Can develop a unique twist in branches and the trunk.
  • Can be expected to begin flowering about 7 years after planting.
  • Produces clusters of large, trumpet-shaped white flowers in May and June that are showy and somewhat fragrant.
  • Grows in an oval shape.
  • Features distinctively large leaves that are up to 12" in length and 4–8" wide, with a somewhat heart or spear shape.
  • Yields bean-like seed pods that are 8–20" long and ¼–½" wide, starting out green and turning brownish as they ripen. They are filled with numerous, 1" long seeds that are fringed at the ends.
  • Requires cleanup after the flower petals, leaves and seed pods drop.
  • Should not be planted where fruit and flowers can drop on sidewalks, as they are slippery right after they fall.

Wildlife Value

The flowers of the catalpa are visited by hummingbirds. It is the sole host of the catalpa sphinx moth. And it provides nutrition for bees in early summer.

History/Lore

The catalpa tree is found in forests from southern Illinois and Indiana to western Tennessee and Arkansas. First cultivated in 1754, the wood was used for fence posts and railroad ties because of its resistance to rot and the tree’s fast growth rate. Common names for this tree are many and colorful—including cigar tree, Indian bean tree, catawba, caterpillar tree, hardy catalpa and western catalpa.