This week’s tree is the Chinese catalpa (Catalpa ovata). They are easily recognized by their long thin pods and their heart shaped leaves. They differ from the native variety by having longer pods, and purple tinted leaves. Just recently we planted a few flats of them in one of our fields, replacing the winter kill from last year.
Chinese catalpa is obviously not native plants, but they work well in Minnesota, and have been successful in urban environments. A good example is still flourishing next to the stone arch bridge – 10 years after transplanting from our research nursery here at the U of MN. They grow in the USDA Hardiness Zones of 5-9, going to -20 or -30 F. The Chinese catalpa is a little squatter than the southern catalpa, growing to 20-30 feet. It was a special tree in china because its wood was used to make the bottom of the qin, a traditional Chinese instrument.