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Catalpa speciosa (Northern catalpa)
Cox, Paul

Catalpa speciosa

Catalpa speciosa (Warder) Warder ex Engelm.

Northern Catalpa, Catalpa Tree, Cigar Tree, Indian Bean

Bignoniaceae (Trumpet-Creeper Family)


USDA Symbol: CASP8

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (I)

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.


From the Image Gallery

7 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 100 feet tall.
Leaf: Dark green.
Fruit: Long pod-like capsule.

Bloom Information

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


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , ND , NE , NH , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , WI , WV
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

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Honey Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: Very easy to grow from seeds and transplant. Seeds require no pretreatment. Catalpa will root from semi-hardwood cuttings taken in late summer or root cuttings taken in late fall.
Seed Collection: Capsules split and disperse seed in late winter or early spring. Collect fruits after capsules brown and begin to dry. Insect infestation is likely if left on the tree too long. Dry, cold storage is recommended.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR


Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Catalpa speciosa in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Catalpa speciosa in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Catalpa speciosa


Record Modified: 2016-05-18
Research By: TWC Staff

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