Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Catalpa speciosa

Northern catalpa, Catalpa tree, Cigar tree, Indian bean

Bignoniaceae (Trumpet-Creeper Family)

Catalpa speciosa (Northern catalpa)
Cox, Paul
Northern catalpa is a 75-100 ft., deciduous tree with a narrow, oval crown. The rugged winter outline is striking. Grayish- to reddish-brown bark breaks into thick scales. Leaves heart shaped with a drawn out tip and usually smooth, sometimes shallowly lobed, margins, petioles up to 8 inches long and blades to 12 inches long by 8 inches wide. Large, showy, white to lavender, bell-shaped flowers with frilled rims occur in heavy, upright clusters at the outer ends of the branches. Flowers up to 2 inches long by 2 inches wide, petals white with yellow streaks and purplish spots inside, fused about half their length and flaring into 2 unequal lips, the smaller 2 lobed, the larger 3 lobed; in open clusters. Fruit a long, narrow pod up to 18 inches in length by 1/2 inch in width persisting through winter. Fall color is poor; leaves often fall before turning.

Northern Catalpa is the northernmost New World example of its tropical family and is hardier than Southern Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides), which blooms later and has slightly smaller flowers and narrower, thinner-walled capsules. Both are called Cigartree and Indian-bean because of the distinctive fruit.

Image Gallery:

7 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf: Dark Green
Size Class: 72-100 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun


USA: AL , AR , CT , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NE , NH , NY , NC , ND , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , WV , WI , DC
Native Distribution: Originally native from w. TN & n.e. AR, to s.w. IN & e. MO; now widely naturalized in s.e. U.S.
Native Habitat: Moist, lowland woods; roadsides; waste places; uplands

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Deep, rich, moist soils.
Conditions Comments: Rapid growing and relatively short-lived, northern catalpa is adaptable to many different soils and sites, but is not particularly drought-tolerant. Catalpas are major litter producers, shedding flowers, small branches, large leaves and seedpods. Brittle branches break easily in wind storms. It is susceptible to defoliation by leaf blight and the sphinx moth caterpillar.


Conspicuous Flowers: yes

Last Update: 2016-05-18