It grows naturally in northern China. It is 10 m tall and the crown is 5-8 m wide. It is in the form of a large egg. The upper side of the leaf is dull green and bare, the lower side is gray green and very slightly hairy. 15 cm long. The flowers are in whorls, light pink to white in color, with red spots on the inside. It blooms in June and July. It is not very abundantly flowered. The bark is very thin, light gray to brown in color and longitudinally furrowed. The fruits resemble beans, not suitable for eating. The root is quite thick and fleshy, developing a heart root system. It is a voracious species but prefers nutrient-rich permeable soils.
It grows in sunny and semi-shady places sheltered from the wind. Catalpa bungei (trumpet tree with a wide crown) is a very rare species in our gardens and parks. It is very suitable for solitary use due to its visual characteristics.
Catalpa trees (specifically, the Catalpa speciosa, commonly known as the Northern catalpa, and Catalpa bignonioides, the Southern catalpa) serve several purposes and can be valued for various reasons:
- Ornamental Use:
- Catalpa trees are often planted for their attractive appearance. They have large, heart-shaped leaves and produce showy, fragrant flowers in late spring or early summer, making them popular choices for landscaping.
- Shade Tree:
- With their broad canopy and large leaves, catalpa trees provide ample shade. This makes them desirable for planting in yards, parks, and other outdoor spaces where shade is appreciated.
- Wildlife Habitat:
- Catalpas attract various forms of wildlife. The large, upright clusters of white flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Additionally, the tree’s leaves serve as food for caterpillars of the catalpa sphinx moth, which is also known as the catalpa worm—a valuable food source for birds and fish.
- While not as common today, in the past, catalpa wood was used for various purposes, including fence posts and railroad ties. The wood is rot-resistant, making it suitable for outdoor use.
- Traditional Medicine:
- Some Native American and traditional herbal medicine practices have used parts of the catalpa tree for medicinal purposes. However, it’s important to note that the efficacy and safety of such uses are not well-established or widely recognized.
- Erosion Control:
- The catalpa’s dense root system helps control soil erosion, making it a useful tree in areas prone to erosion issues.
- Educational Purposes:
- Catalpa trees are sometimes used in educational settings, such as in biology classes, to study plant biology, ecology, and the interactions between plants and insects.
It’s important to note that while catalpa trees have various benefits, they are also considered invasive in some regions due to their ability to spread rapidly and their impact on native plant ecosystems. Before planting catalpa trees, it’s advisable to check with local authorities to ensure they are appropriate for your area.