Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Southern Wetland Flora
Field Office Guide to Plant Species
Catalpa bignonioides Walter
- Family: Trumpet Creeper (Bignoniaceae)
- Flowering: May-July
- Field Marks: Catalpas are the only trees with large, opposite or whorled, heart-shaped,
toothless leaves. This catalpa differs from the northern catalpa (C. speciosa) by its more
purple-spotted flowers and its leaves that have a bad odor when crushed.
- Habitat: Wet woods, along streams.
- Habit: Tree up to 40 feet tall, with a broadly rounded crown.
- Bark: Light brown, thin, scaly.
- Twigs: Stout, smooth or slightly hairy, with conspicuous lenticels.
- Leaves: Opposite or whorled, ovate, short-pointed at the tip, heart-shaped at the base, without
teeth, smooth on the upper surface, paler and finely hairy on the lower surface, up to 8 inches
long, nearly as broad.
- Flowers: Large, showy, several in a large cluster.
- Sepals: United, splitting into 2 parts, green.
- Petals: 5, unequal in size, united below into a tube, white with dense purple spots, up to
1 1/2 inches long.
- Stamens: 2, not exserted beyond the tube of the petals.
- Pistils: Ovary superior.
- Fruits: Capsules long and slender, up to 18 inches long, up to 1/2 inch broad, containing many
seeds; seeds in pairs, winged, with a tuft of hair at the tip of each wing.
- Notes: The clusters of large flowers make this species a popular ornamental. The wood of this
tree is used primarily for railroad ties and fence posts. It has escaped from cultivation and is now
widespread throughout the south. The catalpa or catawba "worms" (moth larvae) are used as fish
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