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Catalpa speciosa flowers, leaf and bark
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Bignoniaceae
Tribe: Tecomeae
Genus: Catalpa

See text

Catalpa, also spelled Catawba, is a genus of flowering plants in the trumpet vine family, Bignoniaceae, native to warm temperate regions of North America, the Caribbean, and east Asia.

Catalpas are mostly deciduous trees that typically grow to 12–18 metres (39–59 ft) tall and 6–12 metres (20–39 ft) wide. A 10-year-old sapling will stand about 6 metres (20 ft) tall. They can be recognized by their large heart-shaped to three-lobed leaves, showy white or yellow flowers in broad panicles, and in the autumn by their 20–50 centimetres (7.9–20 in) long fruits which resemble a slender bean pod, containing numerous small flat seeds, each seed having two thin wings to aid wind dispersal. Because of the leaves, they are sometimes confused with the Tung tree (Vernicia fordii) in the southern U.S.

Due to their large leaf size, Catalpas provide very dark shade and are a popular habitat for many birds, providing them good shelter from rain and wind. These trees have very little limb droppage, but drop large, dark brown bean pods during late summer. The wood of catalpas is quite soft.[1]

The two North American species, Southern Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides), and Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) have been widely planted outside their natural ranges as ornamental trees for their showy flowers and attractive shape, or growing habit. Northern and Southern Catalpa are very similar in appearance, but the northern species has slightly larger leaves, flowers, and bean pods. Flowering starts after 275 growing degree days. The Yellow Catalpa 梓樹 (Catalpa ovata) from China, with pale yellow flowers, is also planted outside its natural range for ornamental purposes.

Beanpods and leaf details of the Northern Catalpa.

The name derives from the Catawba Native American name catawba for these trees (the tribal totem), with the spelling Catalpa being due to a transcription error on the part of the describing botanist (Scopoli) making the first formal scientific description of the genus. The rules of botanical naming state that the spelling used in the formal scientific description has to be retained for the scientific name. The name in vernacular use has very largely (though not completely) followed Scopoli's erroneous transcription, with catawba still in use in some areas of the United States, most particularly within the trees' native range.

The bean-like seed pod is the origin of the alternative vernacular names Indian Bean Tree and Cigar Tree for Catalpa bignonioides and Catalpa speciosa.

The tree is the sole source of food for the Catalpa Sphinx moth (Ceratomia catalpae), the leaves being eaten by the caterpillars. When caterpillars are numerous, infested trees may be completely defoliated. Defoliated catalpas produce new leaves readily, but with multiple generations occurring, new foliage may be consumed by subsequent broods. Severe defoliation over several consecutive years can cause death of trees. Because the caterpillars are an excellent live bait for fishing, some dedicated anglers plant catalpa mini-orchards for their own private source of "catawba-worms," particularly in the southern states.[2]

The Catalpa tree in Reading, Berkshire, England.

The largest living Catalpa tree is on the grounds of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan and was planted in the year of its dedication, 1879. The oldest is the 150-year-old specimen in the Minster graveyard of St Mary’s Butts in the English town of Reading in Berkshire, although this is soon to be replaced, passing the claim to Rochester's 140-year-old Catalpa situated in front of the town's Cathedral.

Catalpa is also occasionally used as a tonewood in guitars.

Selected species

Catalpa bignonioides Walter - Southern Catalpa
Catalpa brevipes Urb. -
Catalpa bungei C.A.Mey. -
Catalpa cassinoides Spreng. -
Catalpa communis Dum.Cours. -
Catalpa cordifolia Moench -
Catalpa denticulata Urb. -
Catalpa domingensis Urb. -
Catalpa duclouxii Dode -
Catalpa ekmaniana Urb. -
Catalpa fargesii Bur. -
Catalpa henryi Dode -
Catalpa heterophylla Dode -
Catalpa himalayensis Hort. ex Dippel -
Catalpa hirsuta Spreng. -
Catalpa kaempferi Siebold & Zucc. -
Catalpa longisiliqua Cham. -
Catalpa longissima (Jacq.) Dum.Cours. - Haitian Catalpa
Catalpa macrocarpa Ekman -
Catalpa microphylla Spreng. -
Catalpa nana Hort. ex Dippel -
Catalpa oblongata Urb. & Ekman -
Catalpa obovata Urb. -
Catalpa ovata G.Don - Yellow Catalpa
Catalpa pottsii Seem. -
Catalpa pubescens (Griseb.) Bisse -
Catalpa pumila Hort. ex Wien. -
Catalpa punctata Griseb. -
Catalpa purpurea Griseb. -
Catalpa silvestrii (Pamp. & Bonati) S.Y.Hu -
Catalpa speciosa Warder ex Engelm. - Northern Catalpa
Catalpa sutchuensis Dode -
Catalpa ternifolia Cav. -
Catalpa thunbergii Hort. ex Wien. -
Catalpa tibetica Forrest -
Catalpa umbraculifera Hort. -
Catalpa vestita Diels -
Catalpa wallichiana Hort. ex Wien. -


External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Asterids
Cladus: Euasterids I
Ordo: Lamiales
Familia: Bignoniaceae
Tribus: Tecomeae
Genus: Catalpa
Species: C. bignonioides - C. bungei - C. erubescens - C. fargesii - C. longissima - C. ovata - C. speciosa - C. syringifolia


Catalpa Scop.

Vernacular names

Türkçe: Katalpa


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