Betula nigra #3 (River Birch)May 25, 2020
Yellowwood #3 (Cladrastis kentukea)May 25, 2020
Catalpa speciosa #3 (Northern Catalpa)
-Part Sun, Full Sun
-Moist to Dry Soil (FACU, FAC)
-40-60′ Tall by 20-40′ Wide
-Upright Oval growth habit
-Frilly White Flowers in May, June
-Deer, Drought tolerant
8 in stock
Northern Catalpa is a bold textured, highly adaptable and easy to grow native, medium-sized tree. For two weeks in late spring the trees are covered in showy, upright, white flower clusters that attract Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, bumblebees and moths as their primary pollinators. Many other insects visit the blooms for nectar, as well as the extra-floral nectaries on the leaves. These function as a part of the tree’s defenses against herbivory by attracting insects such as lady beetles, ants and parasitoid wasps to protect it. Northern Catalpas are host to only 8 species of Lepidoptera, including the Catalpa Sphinx Moth, which have been harvested and used by fisherfolk as bait.
In the landscape, Northern Catalpas are useful for difficult areas of seasonal changes in soil moisture, areas with urban air pollution, deer pressure, or near Black Walnuts and they possess a modest degree of salt tolerance. The wood is relatively brittle and should not be located over structures or parking areas, and the cylindrical seed pods can be quite messy in the fall when they are shed from the tree. It is easier to appreciate the beauty and boldness of these trees if they are well-sited, away from areas that their messy tendencies in fall will be noticed. Their winter habit is also very attractive with a dense and chunky looking branching structure.
There is a non-native, highly invasive look-alike referred to as Princess Tree, Empress Tree, or Royal Paulownia (Paulownia tomentosa) which is native to China and was imported in the late 1800s as an ornamental. It is an extremely fast-growing tree with very similar looking leaves and flowers to our native Northern Catalpa. At 8-10 years of age, a single Princess Tree can produce as many as 20 million windborne seeds that can travel up to 2 miles. See this link to help differentiate between Northern Catalpa and Princess Tree, and this link for more information and images.
Native Trees, Shrubs, & Vines by William Cullina
Manual of Woody Landscape Plants by Michael A. Dirr
Midwestern Native Shrubs and Trees by Charlotte Adelman & Bernard L. Schwartz
Missouri Botanical Garden
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Mature Flowering: Cbaile19, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Flower Detail: Cbaile19, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Mature Trunk: Dan Keck, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons