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Catalpa tree

Posted by v1rtu0s1ty Zone 5a, Northern IL (My Page) on
Fri, Jul 9, 10 at 3:25

What do you think about this tree? I saw it at a public garden in Wisconsin about 2 weeks ago. I love the shape of the leaves. It is HUGE!!! I'm thinking of putting one to my garden. The person at the garden told me that catalpa trees are moderate growers so wood isn't as strong but not that weak either.

Thanks!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Catalpa tree

If you've got the space, they are dramatic trees with tropical-like blooms and leaves. The leaves and pods do create a mess in the fall, but other than that I can't think of any real drawbacks. Keep in mind, though,that this is potentially a huge tree which casts very dense shade. In the right place they're great, but probably not in a small yard.


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RE: Catalpa tree

There are dwarf catalpas (such as C. ovata from China) that potentially get to 30 feet tall.

I like catalpas for the tropical foliage effect and flowers. Also (at least in some climates) they attract caterpillars that make great fish bait.

Currently I have a seed-grown Catalpa x erubescens "Purpurea" which has purplish foliage (most striking in newly emerged leaves). It's only about 5 feet tall after 6 years, probably because it was planted in a dryish spot and has taken time to get established.


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RE: Catalpa tree

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Fri, Jul 9, 10 at 11:29

C. x erubescens 'Purpurea' and C. bignonioides are the best ones. Bold trees like these are just the thing to make other things around them, including your house look small.

Use with care.


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RE: Catalpa tree

There is a catalpa for every situation, actually. I have a Chinese catalpa (ovata) and it would definitely be suitable for a smaller garden. It is not easily found in the trade, however. We have had a little damage to the spring leaves occasionally from late freezes.

Catalpa is related to the dreaded Paulownia but is its better behaved cousin. It's a nice choice for dramatic foliage and really underused in my opinion. Northern catalpa is seen a lot in my vicinity, but often in the old historic areas since it's not planted much anymore. They do reseed here and most of the local people sort of look on them as something common and not a candidate for the nursery trade.

We don't have much difficulty with limb breakage in storms, but have had to do some damage control over the years. They are an easy, adaptive tree and one of ours seems happy in an area where there is standing water occasionally from stream overflow and an underground spring. Deer don't bother them. Ours sometimes gets some major defoliation from the catalpa moth, but that's cool to watch too. The foliage does regrow, but it has to be a stressor to the tree in those years when there is heavy feeding and they need to push two growths of foliage in one year.

I like this tree.


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RE: Catalpa tree

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Fri, Jul 9, 10 at 16:51

Catalpa belongs to the Bignoniaceae and Paulownia is in the Scrophulariaceae.


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RE: Catalpa tree

v1rtuos1ty,
I'm presuming you didn't see it in bloom - if you had, you'd have been even more impressed. Every time I see some of the big old catalpas here festooned with their masses of beautiful white flowers, I think, "Man, I've GOT to get around to planting a couple of those." And the catalpa sphinx caterpillars make good fishbait, too.


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RE: Catalpa tree

They are beautiful trees! If I had a larger yard, I'd get one. Sometimes the wood can be a little brittle, and watchout, when the seeds pop, they make a mess. But it really is a gorgeous tree. It reseeds readily. There's a ton around here.


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RE: Catalpa tree

You know, it depends on the taxonomic authority whether Paulownia is listed as a member of the Scrophulariaceae or listed as a Bignoniaceae. You can find legitimate sources from either camp. I've found University sourcing listing both. I based that statement on sources from the University of Georgia, Vanderbuilt University and the Nebraska Forest Service. I could provide just as legitimate sourcing saying it isn't.

I have no idea if it's been reclassified or not, because with the breakthroughs of DNA testing, many things have. It's hard to keep up with all the changes. But, if I have made an ignorant mistake, I have a lot of good company. ;-)

Here is a link that might be useful: Biological sciences Vanderbuilt University


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RE: Catalpa tree

Thanks folks. I will have to read all your good comments about this tree again.

But yes, I saw the tree with flowers. I saw it at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in WI. :) I remember I took a picture of it. Hopefully, I'll find it.

I'll post again later. Thanks!


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RE: Catalpa tree

I too have recently discovered this tree, noticed it easily when they were in bloom around here. I was going to plant one, had a hard time finding any. Then learned they are on the restricted tree list in my town, trouble with seed pods and storm drains I am told.


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RE: Catalpa tree

who is the government to tell you that you can't plant a tree (unless it is an exotic invasive). that just burns me the wrong way. plant it anyway, how are they gonna find out? And what are they going to do, cut it down?


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RE: Catalpa tree

I found the pic of a young catalpa tree that I shot back in June 26 at Olbrich Gardens. As promised, I will share it :)


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RE: Catalpa tree

Do you think folks that Catalpa would work for my backyard? I really love its big leaves and the light color as well. My backyard is 80ft by 80ft.

Thanks!


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RE: Catalpa tree

  • Posted by brandon7 6b (like 7b now) TN (My Page) on
    Sat, Jul 10, 10 at 13:09

"who is the government to tell you that you can't plant a tree (unless it is an exotic invasive). that just burns me the wrong way. plant it anyway, how are they gonna find out? And what are they going to do, cut it down?"

Heck yeah, who cares if the town floods or your neighbors house gets a little water damage. Tell the government you are the only one that matters, and you'll do what you want!
____________________________________________

On a related note, I am a little skeptical that the seedpods would be that different from anything else that would cause problems with the storm drains. It would be interesting to know more about the reason for the restriction and how far the restriction goes.


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RE: Catalpa tree

In that vein.........yes, people should question planting restrictions imposed by municipal or HOA governing bodies simply to satisify the criteria that they are based on sound science and good reasoning. There is such an easy route to misapplying information, even if there is the intent to do it fairly. It seems to be a growing trend to accept what amounts to 'growing evidence' as hard fact and work from it......... and not consider that the basic assumption isn't even valid.


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RE: Catalpa tree

I've got a big one at a rental house, don't know what the previous owner was thinking planting a large bold tree like this 2 feet from the sidewalk, but there it is. It has a very large canopy and dominates the space so everything growing around it kind of grows sideways. Sigh. Why do people never consider the ultimate size of a tree or shrub? My tree guy said if I just wanted him to limb it up I would have to hire a police detail because it was too close to the street.

The flowers are gorgeous, but it's a messy tree so I can see why it might be restricted from planting on a street, but the back yard should be okay.


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RE: Catalpa tree

"Heck yeah, who cares if the town floods or your neighbors house gets a little water damage. Tell the government you are the only one that matters, and you'll do what you want!"

Whatevs! There's a ton of over-activist towns and HOA's that restrict anything and everything. I'm surprised half of the HOA's out there even allow trees...after all, they require raked leaves and that can look a mess if you don't clean it up.

And anyhow, there are catalpa trees ALL OVER Cleveland and they do not pose a problem as far as the sewers go. They don't cause any other drainage problems. For crap's sake, the sweetgums all along the street drop a million pounds of monkey balls and THEY don't even cause a problem at the sewer. Leaves do because people are lazy, not the monkey balls. People just need to take a chill pill...Something like cottonwood, I can understand restricting the planting of those. Catalpa? Come on. Like I said, if you like it, plant it. If some crotchety neighbor doesn't like it, tell them to suck your a**.

There are tons of cities and towns that do just fine and don't try to restrict what a person can put on their own private property.


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RE: Catalpa tree

Well said krycek1984!!! :)


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RE: Catalpa tree

Virtuous, with an 80x80 backyard, you could really plant any tree you wanted as far as size goes. It just depends on how much shade you want, how big of a tree you want, and other such personal decisions. That should be *more* than enough room for a catalpa. If you're a tree nut, you could put several trees back there.


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RE: Catalpa tree

i have a number of catalpa trees growing wild behind my house down by a creek, and one that sprung up next to our chicken house i replanted in our yard and it put on pods this year, i don't know what type of catalpa tree it is but it grows wild here in Oklahoma, and i have seen some HUGE ones over in the houses that were put in 20 or so miles from me back in the late 1800s - it is a very impressive tree with very nice blossoms. Maybe I will pick some up off the ground this year, I would also love to see you get this tree, it really is a great hearty shade tree. My uncle has one that's probably 30 years old and only about 35 feet tall or so. I used to sell vegetables under it by the roadside when i was little.


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RE: Catalpa tree

krycek1984,

I planted my first catalpa just this past weekend. :) I'll be getting another one from Arborday but I am not sure when they're going to ship it. Hopefully, it will be healthy.

At the back about 10 ft from my property border, I have Riverbirch and 3 blackhaw viburnum. The Riverbirch is tall about 20 ft but the viburnums are only 8 ft tall. I'm thinking of pruning the lower part of the viburnums similar to what I did with my Prairie fire crabapple. The crabapple gave a lot of height this year. I pruned it last fall. My friend bought from the same nursery, the same cultivar, the same time it was planted and mine is 2 ft taller. :)


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RE: Catalpa tree

One thing, virtuous, I know you've been thinking about the Catalpa a lot...

They are great trees but do note that in the fall, when their seeds ripen, the pods "Pop" and if it is "popping" above the patio, it can make the patio unusable for a little while. They can hurt when they burst from their casing!

Other than that they are lovely trees.


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RE: Catalpa tree

Yup, I am aware. I even saw a youtube video of it just right after a hard frost, they lose all their leaves. LOL! :D

By the way, when do they start showing leaves in spring?


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RE: Catalpa tree

  • Posted by simcan z5b/Toronto (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 25, 10 at 17:18

Another option if you don't mind a little maintenance is coppicing or (better in my view for Catalpa) pollarding. These are great candidates for this and size is not an issue.


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RE: Catalpa tree

Won't they produce more trunks if we coppice them like what happens to purple smokebushes?


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RE: Catalpa tree

Coppicing, yes, though not really trunks in that sense since it operates almost as a shrub (smokebush being a good example). See here (http://fatbeaglefarm.typepad.com/, scroll down) for an example. Most folks pollard Catalpas vs. coppicing, which is basically coppicing but at the top of a single trunk which will get thicker and thicker but not taller (because you whack it back every Spring).

Here is a link that might be useful: coppiced catalpa


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RE: Catalpa tree

I'll access the link once I get home. It's blocked from work. :(


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