Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Northeast Wetland Flora
Field Office Guide to Plant Species
Catalpa speciosa (Warder ex Barney) Warder ex Engelm.
- Family: Trumpet-creeper (Bignoniaceae)
- Flowering: May-June
- Field Marks: Catalpas are the only trees with whorled leaves that are large and toothless.
This species differs from other catalpas by its leaves that do not have a bad odor when
crushed. The flowers of this species have two rows of yellow blotches on the petals.
- Habitat: Low woods, swamps; frequently planted and sometimes escaped from cultivation.
- Habit: Medium tree up to 60 feet tall; trunk diameter up to 3 feet; crown broad, widely spreading.
- Bark: Light or dark brown or black with rather deep furrows at maturity.
- Twigs: Stout, smooth, brown, with conspicuous lenticels; leaf scars in whorls of 3; bundle traces 12 or more; buds round, very small, brown or black.
- Leaves: Whorled, simple, ovate, long-pointed at the tip, often heart-shaped at the base, up to 1 foot long, about 2/3 as broad, smooth along the edges, soft-hairy on the lower surface; leaf stalks stout, up to 6 inches long.
- Flowers: Large, showy, several in an elongated cluster up to 6 inches long.
- Sepals: 5, purple.
- Petals: 5, attached to each other to form a broad tube, white with two rows of yellow blotches on the lower petals and scattered purple lines inside the tube, up to 2 1/2 inches long.
- Stamens: 5, with two functional and three reduced non-functional ones.
- Pistils: Ovary superior, elongated, smooth.
- Fruits: Elongated capsules up to 1 1/2 feet long and 3/4 inch thick, brown at maturity, splitting into 2 parts to reveal several winged, hairy seeds about 1 inch long.
- Notes: This tree is often planted as an ornamental because of its large, attractive flowers. Its native range is essentially in the Upper Mississippi Valley. The wood can be used in interior finishing.
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