By: Brianna Egge
Catalpa speciosa, commonly referred to as northern catalpa, or simply catalpa. Northern catalpa is a medium to large deciduous tree native to the United States that survives in USDA Hardiness zones of 4-8. This means that northern catalpa can survive throughout most of the chillier Midwestern states. These trees usually grow to around 40-70 feet, with some known to reach 100 feet tall, and have a canopy spread of about 20-50 feet. They prefer full sun to partial shade areas with well-drained soils, but are tolerant of many soil conditions, including seasonal flooding. These trees are also tolerant to deer, drought, clay soils, and air pollution, which may make these trees ideal for withstanding city conditions.
Northern catalpa grow rapidly. The trunk is usually short and often crooked. It supports an irregular, rounded crown with narrow spreading branches and thick twigs. The bark is typically grey to reddish-brown and has irregular shallow fissures. The broad, elongated cordate leaves reach lengths of 12” long and have pointed tips. The light green leaves turn a bright yellow color in the fall. The white showy, bell-shaped flowers have yellow and purple spottings on the inside and are about 2” long. After blooming in late spring, these flowers give way to long (12-22”) green seedpods. The seedpods mature and turn a dark brown color in the fall before splitting open to release the contained seeds in spring. These pods are how northern catalpa received the name ‘cigar tree’. These seedpods are produced in large quantities every 2-3 years and persist through the winter season.
Northern catalpa may prove to be a popular urban tree planting for its beautiful showy flowers, large heart-shaped leaves, and unique crown form. It can also tolerate a wide array of conditions that would make it suitable to urban areas.
All photos and references are used for educational purposes only
- Missouri Botanical Garden. “Catalpa speciosa.” N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Feb. 2017 <http://bit.ly/22AfppD>
- Arbor Day Foundation. “Northern Catalpa: Catalpa speciosa.” N.p., 2016. Web. 7 Feb. 2017. <http://bit.ly/2lkDv87>
- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. “Catalpa speciosa.” University of Texas, 18 May 2016. Web. 7 Feb. 2017. <http://bit.ly/2jZ2FYJ>
- ISU Forestry Extension. “Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa).” Trees of Iowa: An Interactive Key. Iowa State University, 16 Aug. 2015. Web. 7 Feb. 2017. <http://bit.ly/2kiF0ni>
- North, Eric. Catalpa speciosa form. Digital image. UFORE Lab & Nursery. University of Minnesota, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2017. <http://bit.ly/2kvKHOu>.
Loughmiller, Campbell, and Lynn Loughmiller. Catalpa speciosa. Digital image. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. University of Texas at Austin, 03 May 1999. Web. 10 Feb. 2017. <http://bit.ly/2kJRc3S>.
Brown, Lisa. Catalpa Speciosa. Digital image. North Carolina State University A&T Cooperative Extension. North Carolina State University, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2017. <http://bit.ly/2lh94DT>.
Kirchoff, Bruce. Catalpa Speciosa. Digital image. North Carolina State University A&T Cooperative Extension. North Carolina State University, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2017. <http://bit.ly/2lh94DT>.
Virginia Tech. Northern Catalpa. Digital image. Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation. Virginia Tech, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2017. <http://bit.ly/2jYTesg>.
North, Eric. Catalpa speciosa Bark. Digital image. UFORE Lab & Nursery. University of Minnesota, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2017. <http://bit.ly/2kvKHOu>