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

Thursday - June 28, 2012

From: Waco, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Question about the Chitalpa tree
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

A bush w/6" long pencil thin seed pod, leaves 4"x1/2", flower that looks like the flower on the Chitalpa tree. Is there a Chitalpa bush. The one I have I grew from seed from the pod; flat, round w/dark dot in center and furry. It is now about 4' high, but the one I got the seed from is about 12' high w/o a trunk like the Chitalpa tree. The reason I equate it w/the tree is the flower looks exactly like the one on my bush.

ANSWER:

The Chitalpa tree (X Chitalpa tashkentensis) is a hybrid from a cross between Catalpa bignonioides (Southern catalpa) and Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow).  The two plants are from the same family (Family Bignoniaceae, Trumpet-Creeper Family) but are not only different species, but also from different genera (Catalpa and Chilopsis).  Since the Chitalpa tree is a hybrid it is usually sterile and doesn't produce fruit.   That's one of the desirable features of it because it doesn't leave a "mess" under it from the falling seed pods.  You can read the description from Oregon State University

Now, I am a bit confused.  Do you actually have a Chitalpa tree and did it produce seeds and one of those seeds grew into the bush you are asking about?   If this is the case, it is very unusual since Chitalpa trees are sterile and don't produce fruit containing seeds.

Is it possible that your bush is actually a young Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow)?   Its maximum height is 12 to 40 feet. Here is a photo of the long, thin seed pods of Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow) and a photo of its trunk and bark from Oregon State University.  You can see photos of the seeds from the seed pods on the Vascular Plants of Gila Wilderness site.

Or, is your plant a young Catalpa bignonioides (Southern catalpa) tree?  Its maximum height is 25 to 40 feet.  You can see many photos of Catalpa bignoniodes, including its seeds and trunk, at the Discover Life site.

Since the Chitalpa tree is a hybrid and not technically a North American native, it doesn't appear in our database, but you can see photos and more information from Delange.org and Cuyamaca.net.  Perhaps by comparing photos of the three trees you can determine the identity of your bush.

 

From the Image Gallery


Southern catalpa
Catalpa bignonioides

Southern catalpa
Catalpa bignonioides

Southern catalpa
Catalpa bignonioides

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

More Plant Identification Questions

Identification of gourd plant growing in central California
August 10, 2012 - I am not sure if this flowering plant is native to North America. It is found in dry land grazing fields at about 100 feet in elevation in central California. It is large--2-6 feet across with a sti...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
February 20, 2014 - I'm not sure of county of origin. It was given to me by someone I no longer have contact with. When I initially received it I thought it was just a small potted vine of some type. I've had it a yea...
view the full question and answer

Identification of a tree in Florida with bell-shaped red flowers
November 23, 2012 - A friend in Florida has asked about identification of a tree with a flower none of us have ever seen. It starts with a green pod, then flowers into, what looks to me like a Chinese lantern, or bell. I...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
September 26, 2009 - I came back from vacation to find a wild herb growing in my back yard. It looks similar to dill, cilantro, or fennel; which makes me think it's in the umbrelliferae family, but it's not a large plan...
view the full question and answer

Identity of plant that looks like green onions
April 06, 2013 - I have what looks like green onions growing in my lawn. They have small white flowers. Are they edible?
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center