Catalpa bignonioides Walt.

Southern Catalpa

Catalpa bignonioides plant

Family - Bignoniaceae

Habit - Tree, to 15 m tall.

Stems - Woody, single trunk to 1 m in diameter.

Leaves - Opposite or whorled (3 at a node), long petiolate, to 25cm long, 18cm wide, typically ovate to cordate, sometimes shallowly 3-lobed, especially when young, acute, pubescent below, sparsely pubescent to glabrescent above.

Catalpa bignonioides leafYoung leaf.

Inflorescence - Terminal panicle to +20cm tall.

Flowers - Tubular, to 2cm broad. Corolla white outside, purple and yellow spotted inside, wrinkled, lower petals not notched at tip.

Fruits - An elongate capsule to 35cm long, 1cm in diameter. Seeds flattened, with coma.

Flowering - May - June.

Habitat - Cultivated, rarely escaped along streambanks, roadsides, railroads.

Origin - Native to small portion of extreme southeastern U.S.

Lookalikes - Catalpa speciosa.

Other info. - This species is sometimes very difficult to tell from its close sibling C. speciosa, but typically has smaller flowers and fruits than the latter. Also, the corollas of C. bignonioides have a denser pattern of lines and spots in the throat, and the leaves have a strong unpleasant odor when crushed or bruised, whereas those of C. speciosa are less strongly and more pleasantly scented. Some botanists think the two are synonymous. C. bignonioides is planted as an ornamental and is less common in this state than C. speciosa.

Photograph taken at the Kansas City Zoo, 6-8-99.