En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - July 02, 2014

From: Pewaukee, WI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pruning, Trees
Title: Northern Catalpa Tree Doing Poorly
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

One of our Northern Catalpa trees appears to be dying. It is about 28 feet tall and this year only about 1/3 of it is producing leaves. It is next to our largest Catalpa tree (about 65 feet tall and about 25 feet apart) and that tree looks perfect, as it always does. We had a very rough winter here is Wisconsin. Could the winter have affected one tree and not the other? Is there any way to save the smaller one with careful pruning? Thanks for any help or insight.

ANSWER:

Northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) is a distinctive tree with large heart-shaped leaves and showy white bell-shaped flowers in large clusters at the ends of the branches. Each bloom has yellow streaks and purple spots inside. The fruit is a long narrow bean-like pod that grows up to 18 inches long and persists into the winter. 
Since your younger catalpa is in the same location as an older and bigger catalpa, the soil, moisture, sun and environmental conditions should be favorable for it. Catalpa are not usually extremely long lived though. This is the case with many fast-growing trees.  So the younger tree may not have longevity in its genes. Catalpa are also not particularly drought tolerant. Perhaps the younger one is now suffering the effects from a past drought.
Northern catalpa are hardy to zone 4 which includes most of Wisconsin (except some of Douglas, Burnett, Washburn, Sawyer and Price counties), so it should be fine with temperatures down to -30 F. 
The Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder has more information about Northern catalpa if you visit their website. Ultimately, a certified arborist can advise you about the health of your tree. There are some rare but serious diseases that could attack catalpa such as verticillium wilt that could cause a rapid and fast decline as well.

 

From the Image Gallery


Northern catalpa
Catalpa speciosa

Northern catalpa
Catalpa speciosa

Northern catalpa
Catalpa speciosa

Northern catalpa
Catalpa speciosa

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Problems with Strawberry Hedgehog cactus from Temple TX
June 03, 2012 - I had purchased a Strawberry hedgehog Cactus (echinocereus stramineus) a few years ago from the Wildflower Center's annual plant sale and planted it then. It has now started to brown from bottom to t...
view the full question and answer

Possible reasons for yellowing leaves in seedlings in Ohio
June 19, 2006 - I have a problem with my seedlings. They start yellowing of one leaf then die. When I remove the leaf another one starts. I have photos. I have two differant seedling plants and they are experiencing...
view the full question and answer

Why is my Ash drooping?
June 22, 2009 - Last spring, I bought a house in Austin, TX with a large Ash tree in the front yard. It looked fine last year, but has been looking funny since it leafed out this spring. It's as if the leaves are we...
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in Vacccinum corymbosum (highbush blueberry)
June 28, 2007 - Blueberry plants - We planted Northland and Blue Crop, 2 of each. All 4 plants have some leaves that are turning brown. This starts at the tip of the leaf, eventually encompasses the entire leaf, a...
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in Dakota mock vervain
July 23, 2007 - We just planted some Verbena bipinnatifida in our back yard and when we planted it, it had purple flowers on it but now they've all dried up. We live in central Colorado and thought this plant was fa...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center