Catalpa bignonioides Walter
Family: Bignoniaceae
Southern Catalpa
[Catalpa catalpa (L.) Karst.]
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Max Licher  
Plant: deciduous tree; to 20 m tall Leaves: simple, opposite, 3-5-veined at the base, broadly ovate, the petiole to 16 cm long, the blade 10-25 cm long, the apex abruptly short acuminate, the base truncate to cordate INFLORESCENCE: broad terminal panicles, 15-25 cm long Flowers: numerous, showy; calyx 1-1.5 cm long, unequally 2-lipped, the lobes mucronate; corolla 3-4 cm across white with purple spots and 2 yellow lines insde, the lobes spreading and undulate Fruit: FRUITS to about 40 cm long, cylindric, very long and narrow; SEEDS numerous, compressed, winged, bearing a tuft of long hairs at each end Misc: Widely cultivated, escaped to roadsides, floodplains, canyons, and riparian habitats; 1050-1650 m (3500-5400 ft); May-June REFERENCES: Mason, Charles T., Jr. 1999. Bignoniaceae. Ariz.-Nev. Acad. Sci. 32(1).
Tree 8 - 12 m tall, trunk 40 cm - 0.9 m in diameter Leaves: opposite or whorled, bright green above, paler beneath, 12 - 20 cm long, 10 - 12 cm wide, heart-shaped with a pointed tip, non-toothed or with few slight lobes, hairy beneath. Foliage releasing an unpleasant odor when crushed. Flowers: borne on a pyramidal branched inflorescence (20 - 25 cm long), white with yellow and purple spots inside, 3 - 4 cm wide, petals fused into tubular or bell shape with three lower and two upper lobes. Fruit: a cylindrical capsule, changing from green to brown, 15 - 40 cm long, 0.8 - 1.2 cm wide, persisting through winter, splitting into two and dropping in spring. Seeds are silvery gray, 2 - 3 cm long, and two-winged with fringed tips. Bark: reddish brown with large, irregular scales. Twigs: stout, greenish purple changing to reddish brown with thin ridges. Leaf scars: almost circular. Lateral buds: small, orangish brown, rounded. Terminal bud absent.

Similar species: Catalpa speciosa and Catalpa bignonioides are very similar. Catalpa speciosa has larger leaves, blooms about two weeks earlier, has fewer but larger flowers, furrowed bark, slightly wider pods, and lacks an unpleasant odor when leaves are crushed.

Flowering: May to June

Habitat and ecology: Sunny disturbed areas, fields, floodplains, along railroads and roadsides, dry upland sites and along streams.

Occurence in the Chicago region: non-native

Notes: The rot-resistant wood of this species is used for fence posts, railroad ties, cabinets, lumber, picture frames, and interior trim. Small branches tend to break during storms as the wood is brittle.

Etymology: Catalpa is the Native American name for this tree. Bignonioides means resembling Bignonia.

Author: The Morton Arboretum

Tree to 15 m, with short trunk and widely spreading branches; lvs barely short-acuminate; infls to 3 dm; cor more conspicuously purple-spotted, the limb 3-4 cm wide; fr more slender, 6-10 mm thick, with a thin flat partition; seed-wings gradually narrowed to the end and with a narrow tuft of short hairs; otherwise as in no. 1 [Catalpa speciosa Warder]; 2n=40. Native of s. U.S., occasionally escaped from cult. in our range.

Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.

©The New York Botanical Garden. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
This species has been freely planted as an ornamental and, no doubt, does escape. I have seen it freely escaping along a roadside in Johnson County and abundantly so in a few sandy, fallow fields in northwestern Elkhart County. It is not recommended for ornamental planting. If a species of catalpa is desired it is best to use the next species [Catalpa speciosa].
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Max Licher  
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Frankie Coburn  
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Frankie Coburn  
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Julia Keebaugh  
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Karl Russek  
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Samuel Royer  
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