Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Wednesday - May 23, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Caterpillars on catalpa trees and hardiness of catalpas
Answered by: Damon Waitt

QUESTION:

A volunteer catalpa tree has recently popped up near the edge of our swimming pool. The foliage is lovely, so I'm considering allowing it to stay. This one has already proven to be a fast grower . . . but how do they do long term. Do they really get covered in worms all summer?

ANSWER:

There are two species of Catalpa in North America, Catalpa speciosa (northern catalpa) and Catalpa bignonioides (southern catalpa). Northern catalpa is a 75-100 ft., deciduous tree with a narrow, oval crown. Southern catalpa reaches 25-40 ft. in height with an equal or greater spread. Both species are fast growing and relatively short-lived. Either species may become weedy or invasive in some regions or habitats. Larva of the catalpa sphinx caterpillar (Ceratomia catalpae) eat the leaves and complete defoliation may occur in some years.

The biggest management problem with catalpa used as an ornamental is litter. They will drop a heavy load of flowers in the spring, then leaves in the fall and finally a lot of large seedpods in the winter. In other words, you will be spending a lot of time cleaning your pool.

For all these reasons, many people (Mr. Smarty Plants included) consider this nearly indestructible tree to be a bit of a nuisance despite its large showy flowers and tropical foliage.

Read this USDA Plant Fact Sheet to learn more about Catalpa.


Catalpa bignonioides

Catalpa speciosa

 

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Landscaping in Bertram TX
September 25, 2009 - I have a landscaping job in Bertram, Texas and am looking for all my options as far as full and partial shade somewhat hardy plants. I'm mainly looking for small plants and pretty flowers I can do wi...
view the full question and answer

Scorched leaves on Red Maple from Lufkin TX
April 30, 2012 - I have a Red Maple that we planted in Lufkin, TX about a month ago and fertilized about 2 weeks ago. We water the tree often. The leaves have become scorched looking on the outside of about 1/3 of t...
view the full question and answer

Freeze-resistant palms for Central Texas
November 09, 2012 - I live in Lytton Springs just north of Lockhart. What is a good hardy palm that I can get that will grow without the worry of freeze?
view the full question and answer

What is eating the leaves of my oak tree in Cedar Park, TX?
May 25, 2010 - This one has a couple of arborists stumped. I have clusters of small, light-colored worms on the leaves of an oak tree, but no tents or webs. They are eating the chlorophyll in the leaves, leaving th...
view the full question and answer

Watering a Montezuma Cypress in Spring Branch, TX
July 11, 2013 - Live near San Antonio, and have a Montesuma Cypress, 15 ft tall. Great soil. Planted in April, should I keep it moist??? The foliage is getting brown.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.