Catalpa Tree: Types, Leaves, Flowers, Seed Pods (Including Catalpa Worms) – With Pictures

The heart-shaped leaves of Crawford trees, white or yellow fragrant blooms, and long dangling seed pods make them ideal for ornamental shade. Catalpa trees are native to the United States of America. The southern catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides) and northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) are the two most common species. Catalpa worms feed on the sap of Catalpa trees.

How to Identify Catalpa Trees

The scaly grayish, brown bark of ancipa trees and the large, pointed leaves growing in whorls of three distinguish them from other types of trees. The trumpet-shaped white spring blooms of Apples are showy. The long, slender seed pods of the most recognized catalpa tree feature emerge in autumn and stay until winter or even spring.

The most prevalent species of catalpa trees are discussed in this article. Various tree species can be identified by looking at pictures and descriptions of catalpa leaves, flowers, and seed pods.

About Catalpa Trees – What is a Catalpa Tree?

Catalpa is a genus of flowering trees that may be found in warm temperate zones across the globe. The northern and southern catalpas are two native North American species. The Chinese catalpa (Catalpa ovata) is another popular species of catalpa tree. It is native to China.

The growth rate of a typical apple tree is between 1 and 2 feet (0.3 and 0.6 meters) per year. Catalpa trees reach a mature height of around 50 feet (15 meters). The lifespan of an acorn tree is 50 to 150 years. The best-suiting kind of tree for growing in full sun is the Catalpa tree, which can adapt to a variety of soil types.

Catalpa trees are most often planted as decorative shade trees in front and backyards. Large, widely heart-shaped leaves make up the spreading rounded canopy. Growing a catalpa tree in a garden landscape adds to the visual appeal. In the spring, showy white flowers bloom, followed by 20-inch (50-centimeter) long slender seed pods.

Northern catalpa vs. southern catalpa

It can be difficult to distinguish between the two native catalpa tree species. The northern catalpa has a narrower, oval crown and is taller than the southern catalpa. The northern catalpa’s leaves are bigger and can reach up to 10″ (25 cm) in length when compared to the southern catalpa. The leaves of southern catalpa trees, on the other hand, range from 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm).

The seed pods are another feature that distinguishes northern and southern catalpas. The seed pods of northern catalpas are 24 inches (60 cm) long, whereas those of southern catalpa are only 12 inches (30 cm). Northern catalpas, on the other hand, may grow in USDA zones 4–8 and are colder-hardier than southern catalpas. In zones 5 through 9, Southern Catalpas are cold-hardy.

Catawba Worms

The larvae of the catalpa sphinx moth are known as Catawba worms (Ceratomia catalpae). The worms consume only catalpa tree leaves, and in a brief period of time, they devour the leaves of a tree. Southern fisherman prize Catawba worms, which are a excellent fish bait in the summer.

Caterpillars are dark-colored or black with a yellow belly in their final instar and are often referred to as catalpa worms. Black lines of dots on the back of long, plump catawba caterpillars and yellow dots on their sides. After the pupa stage, Catawba worms turn brown or grey and become Catawba sphinx moths.

Catalpa Seed Pods (Bean Pods)

The long pods of immature green Catalpa seed pods (left) and mature brown seed pods (right) are well-known. Catalpa seed pods range in length from 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm) depending on the species. During the autumn and winter, masses of pods dangle from catalpa trees. Catalpa tree seed pods appear green, then dark brown as they mature. When the pods break open, their winged seeds float in the breeze.

Catalpa trees have a variety of popular names due to their unusual bean pods. Catalpas are known by a variety of names, including ‘cigar tree,’ ‘bean tree,’ and so on. Catalpa tree beans are sometimes considered poisonous. Non-toxic catalpa seeds are said to be found in cigar-shaped pods. Yet, despite their resemblance to beans, people typically do not consume the seeds because they have no flavor or nutritional content.

Catalpa Leaves

Catalpa leaves are large, triangular-shaped, or heart-shaped and may be seen in this close-up picture. The stem end of each leaf has a rounded base, with a short, pointed tip. There are no serrations or lobes on the edges of a Cotlow leaf. With three leaves per node, corncob leaves frequently grow in whorls.

The leaves have a lighter green underside and are dark green on the upper side. Northern catalpa trees’ autumn coloration is generally yellow or brown. The leaves of both southern and northern species, on the other hand, frequently fall from trees while still green. These are ideal shade trees for home gardens because of the catalpa’s huge leaves and spreading canopy.

Catalpa Flowers

The petals of catalpa trees are papery white, with purple designs in the middle and yellow dots. The papery white petals ofcopaca flowers are shaped like a trumpet or funnel. The purple patterned dots in the center of the white blooms are yellow. The clusters of blooms cover the tree’s foliage in mid- to late-spring.

The earliest of the Catalpa species to blossom in the spring is northern catalpa. Purple spots and stripes with yellow dots decorate the white bell-shaped blooms. The northern catalpa blossoms resemble southern catalpa blossoms that bloom in the summer. The Chinese catalpa blooms, which resemble orchid blooms, are smaller than the other species.

Types of Catalpa Trees (With Pictures)

Let’s look at the three most common types of catalpa trees in more depth and see what distinguishes them.

Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa)

The northern catalpa tree is a huge deciduous shade tree with lovely, heart-shaped leaves and clusters of lovely white blooms. The limited, oval canopy and spreading limbs of this catalpa species have made it famous. The largest of the species is northern catalpa, which grows to be 50 to 70 feet (15 to 21 meters) tall. USDA zones 4 through 8 are home to northern catalpa trees. The ornamental trees thrive in well-drained, moist, loamy soil in garden landscapes.

Large front or back yards can be shaded by northern catalpa trees. Between 20 and 50 feet (6 and 15 meters) wide, the spreading branches form a crown of dense foliage. Northern catalpa trees have a smooth bark that becomes dark grayish-brown with fissures as they mature.

Northern catalpa leaves have an ovately shaped, broad, rounded base and pointed tips. In the spring and summer, its leaves are light green, but in the autumn, they become dull yellow. The longest leaves are up to 12 inches (30 cm) long and 8 inches (20 cm) broad at their broadst point.

Northern catalpa tree seed pods are the largest of the genus Catalpa species leaves and seed pods. The pea-like seeds within the seed-containing capsules are 8 to 20 inches (20 to 50 cm) long. In the fall, immature pods turn dark brown and become green. The drooping brown seed pods resemble dangling icicles in the winter.

The northern catalpa has funnel-shaped white flowers with ruffled petals. Its flowers and leaves are those of the catalpa speciosa. The blossoms are 2 inches (5 centimeters) in diameter and bloom in clusters. From late spring to early summer, they bloom. These catalpa flowers are purple dotted with yellow centers, and you can see them up close.

Southern Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides)

The southern catalpa tree has a heart-shaped glossy green foliage canopy, trumpet-shaped flowers, and pea-like pods. It is known as Catalpa bignonioides. In comparison to the northern catalpa, this one is smaller. It grows to be around 30 to 60 feet (9 to 18 meters) tall, with a 20-40-foot (6-12 meter) wide dense shade canopy.

USDA zones 5 through 9 are ideal for southern catalpa trees, which like other deciduous trees lose their leaves in the autumn. Southern catalpa trees thrives in full sun or partial shade with well-draining soil. The southern species, like the northern catalpa, thrives on rich soil and is able to grow on a wide range of soils.

Catalpa bignonioides is well-known for its catawba worms in the southern United States. Fishermen regard the caterpillars as the finest bait for fishing, despite the fact that they can quickly strip a catalpa tree of its leaves. Some even harvest the catawba worms by growing catalpa trees.

The brown to gray bark of the southern catalpa tree distinguishes it. When unripe trees have smooth bark that develops into rough plates, it becomes more so. A widely rounded base with a short pointed tip characterize southern catalpa leaves. When crushed, southern catalpa leaves emit an unpleasant odor. The leaves also have small glands that secrete nectar, which is another unique characteristic. 4″ to 8″ (10 – 20 cm) long and 6″ to 8″ (15 – 20 cm) broad, Southern catalpa leaves range from 4″ to 8″.

Southern catalpa trees’ seed capsules are smaller than those of northern catalpa trees, as are the leaves and pods. Seed pod length is around 15 inches (37 cm) on average. During the winter, the tree’s brown pendulous pea-like pods dangle from exposed branches, which is a fascinating aspect.

The southern catalpa tree’s clusters of white conical flower clusters are a stunning feature. Ten to 20 funnel-shaped blossoms make up each showy flower cluster. Each little white blossom has purple designs with yellowish-orange specks.

Chinese Catalpa (Catalpa ovata)

The Chinese catalpa (Catalpa ovata) is a little-medium deciduous tree with big widely-ovate lobed leaves, tiny bell-shaped blossoms, and short brown seeds. Only between 20 and 30 feet (6 and 9 meters) tall does the Catalpa ovata (yellow catalpa) grow. This species is an attractive shade tree because of its wide spreading canopy that grows up to 30 feet (9 meters) broad.

USDA zones 4 through 8 are ideal for the Chinese catalpa. The flowering tree thrives in moist soil and tolerates full sun. The Chinese catalpa has lobed leaves, giving each blade a wavy edge, unlike other Catalpa species. The leaves are up to 10 inches (25 cm) long and broad. The color of the fall foliage on this tree is neutral.

The small orchid-like blossoms of Catalpa ovata are a distinguishing characteristic of the Chinese catalpa. These tiny conical flower clusters bloom in late spring, amid the bright green foliage of these delightful flowers. The Chinese catalpa blooms are not as bright as those of the northern catalpa and southern species.

Chinese catalpa seed pods are narrow and 8″ to 12″ (20 – 30 cm) long, with a threadlike appearance.

Immature and mature seed pods of Acacia punctiformis

How to Plant a Catalpa Tree

The brightest location in your yard is where to plant a catalpa tree. Catalpa trees are quickly growing and can grow in practically any soil, which is an advantage. In moist ground, they function just as well as in damp, soggy soil. It’s important to keep in mind that seeds can spread quickly and become invasive in some areas.

How to Grow a Catalpa Tree from Seed

It’s simple to grow Southern Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides) trees from seed. In the autumn, when you can collect them from open pods, the winged seeds are readily available. The seeds are ready to be planted in the spring after being dried in a cold, dry place throughout the winter. Catalpa seeds need to be exposed to the cold before they are planted in the ground. Before you intend to plant them, store the seeds in the refrigerator for a week or so.

Plant three or four catalpa seeds in 1″ (2.5 cm) of soil in a potting soil in the spring. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy, in the small pots by placing them in a shaded area. The catalpa seedlings should be 2″ or 3″ (5 – 7.5 cm) tall and have a few leaves after four to six weeks.

Transplant each seedling to a bigger, 3″ (7.5 cm) pot of fresh, loose potting soil. During the first winter, place the potted seedlings in a protected spot outdoors and grow in pots. In the spring or summer of the following year, the young catalpa trees will be ready to plant in the ground.

How to Care for a Catalpa Tree

Catalpa trees tolerate a wide range of soil types and conditions and flourish in sunny locations. The tree has year-long appeal thanks to its lush green leaves, striking white blossom clusters, and dangling thin brown seed pods. Northern catalpa or southern catalpa trees may be cared for in a variety of ways, as follows:

  • Light: In a sunny spot with around six hours of sunlight, grow a catalpa tree. Partial shade is also tolerated by these trees.
  • Soil: Most soil types are tolerated by octup, which grows in acidic or alkaline soil. In addition, Clay, Loamy, Sandy, Moisture, and Well-Draining soils support huge deciduous shade trees.
  • Water: Water requirements are average for Appancpa trees, and they can endure a variety of soil circumstances from regular floods to short droughts.
  • Temperature and humidity: Northern and southern catalpa trees can endure cold and scorching weather, hardy to zones 4 and 5.
  • Pruning: To eliminate dead, broken, or sick branches from the Appleca tree, just trim it. Since the brittle wood easily fractures off in strong winds, it is also important to remove any deadwood from the crown.

Pests Affecting Catalpa Trees

The most common pest affecting the tree’s development is the catalpa worm (Ceratomia catalpae). Caterpillars can defoliate a tree in just a few months if they aren’t managed. Shake the branches vigorously to make the catalpa worms fall to the ground. You may apply neem oil, insecticidal soaps, or Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacterium utilized as a biological pesticide, to the tree if it is tiny. In the fall or early spring, you may till the surrounding area around the tree to eliminate the pupae.

Aphids, mealybugs, and Japanese beetles are other frequent pests attacking trees in the genus Catalpa. The best method to keep catalpa trees pest-free is by caring for them properly, which ensures good, healthy development. Please read this article on how to get rid of lawn grubs if you want to reduce the number of Japanese beetles in your garden.

Disease Affecting Catalpa Tree Growth

Powdery mildew, which affects the leaves of catalpa trees, is a common fungal disease. The tree’s leaves aren’t harmed by this white flour-like substance. It can also make the tree seem unappealing and ill. Another fungus disease that affects catalpa trees is Verticillium wilt. Yellowing leaves that turn brown and fall off are symptoms of this tree disease. Increasing nitrogen levels in the soil in some situations may help promote healthy development.

Things to Consider When Growing a Catalpa

In most landscapes, northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) and southern catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides) trees are simple to establish. You may create a huge shade tree in your yard that blooms every spring with little effort. When growing a catalpa, the cleanup is the most important thing to consider.

The leaves of corksap trees are typically large, and they fall in a heap during the autumn. The lengthy seed pods fall away in the spring, making even more of a mess. Furthermore, the flowers and seed pods may be slippery, making it difficult to clean off sidewalks and parking lots.

The leaves of certain catalpa species produce sticky nectar, making them unusual. This may leave an unpleasant sticky residue on parked automobiles.

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