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Catalpa

Bignoniaceae
Deciduous, Trees

Catalpas are among the few hardy deciduous trees that can compete in flower and leaf with subtropical species. Large, upright clusters of trumpet-shaped, 2-in. wide flowers are pure white, with stripes and markings in yellow and soft brown. These are displayed in late spring and summer above large, bold, heart-shaped leaves. Flowers are followed by long, bean-shaped seed capsules sometimes called “Indian beans.”

Catalpa bignonioides

Native to southeastern U.S. Generally smaller than C. speciosa, growing to 30–40 ft. tall, with an equal spread. Leaves are 5–8 in. long, often arranged in whorls, and give off an odd odor when crushed. Becomes chlorotic in alkaline soil. Resistant to oak root fungus.

Yellow leaves of ‘Aurea’ are showier where summers are cool.

Catalpa speciosa (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Catalpa speciosa (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Catalpa speciosa

Native to central U.S., this tree grows to 40–60 ft. tall, 20 to 40 ft. wide. Heart-shaped leaves are 6–12 in. long and odorless when crushed. Fewer flowers per cluster than for C. bignonioides.

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