Catalpa Tree

May 26, 2010

We’ve got a good-sized catalpa tree by the sheep shed.  It wasn’t supposed to be a catalpa tree.  It was supposed to be a “Princess Tree” (Paulownia tomentosa) because  I wanted something that grew really quickly with big leaves and flowers.  The Princess Tree is an import from East Asia, and considered an invasive species in some places.  However, I knew it couldn’t do much damage by the sheep shed and fields, because the sheep and goats would graze it down.

Anyway, after the tree grew big enough to bloom, it became clear it was NOT Paulownia tomentosa, in spite of what the nursery said.  Here I was showing pictures of my Princess Tree to a homesteading list, and a couple of them were going, “Ahhhhh, that’s a Catalpa Tree.”

Oops.

So it turned out we have a catalpa tree.  Which is okay, just not what I expected.  (I do like for a nursery to ship what I ordered!)

Booming Catalpa tree

Catalpa Tree (Catalpa speciosa)

The goats trimmed it back when it was younger, but it grew back from the roots, so it’s a pretty tough tree.  It’s purported to withstand wet, dry, alkaline soils and hot, dry environments.  Well, good thing it likes hot.

I’m not sure how tall it is now, but it grows to 40′-60′ with a 30′ spread.  I’d say maybe half-way there?

The neighbors have a full-grown catalpa tree in their front yard.

Full-grown Catalpa Tree

Some years, the trees have lots of catalpa caterpillars on the leaves.

Catalpa caterpillars (Ceratomia catalpae)

Catalpa caterpillar (Ceratomia catalpae)

These caterpillars love to munch on catalpa tree leaves, hence the name.  But when they grow up, they become a Sphinx Moth.

Not very impressive looking.  But if I were into fishing, I’d love the catalpa caterpillars, because they make great bait!

As for the tree itself, it looks pretty when it’s in bloom.  And it provides shade.  Guess that’s all we need!

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