Catalpa

CatalpaCatalpa — Catalpa, also spelled Catawba, is a genus of mostly deciduous trees in the flowering plant family Bignoniaceae, native to warm temperate regions of North America, the West Indies, and eastern Asia.

Catalpas grow to 10-25 m tall, and 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 cm 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 for Tung trees in the south 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 they do drop large bean pods during late summer. The wood of catalpas is quite soft.

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 (Catalpa ovata) from China, with pale yellow flowers, is also planted outside its natural range for ornamental purposes.

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