Functional Catalpa Trees In The Yards
Catalpa, also called catawba, is a genus of flowering trees native to warm, temperate climates of North America, the Caribbean, and east Asia. Most catalpas are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves seasonally. The trees grow to be 39 to 59 feet (12 to 18 meters) in height. Catalpas grow quickly to 30 or 40 feet with some varieties eventually reaching 90 feet in height with a three to four foot diameter trunk. They are typically taller than wide with an irregularly-shaped crown and widely spaced branches. The aesthetic highlight of the trees are the massive flower clusters that cover catalpas in late spring or early summer. They are white with purple and yellow markings, and have the refined appearance of an orchid. Individual flowers are an inch or more in size and the combined effect when the tree is in full bloom is quite dramatic. Catalpa leaves are also quite glorious. They are large, usually eight to 12 inches in length, and heart-shaped.
Together with the exotic flower clusters the trees have an almost tropical appearance, though in reality it is extremely cold hardy. The leaves emerge in spring, followed quickly by the flowers; these give way to foot-long seedpods which hang on the tree through fall and often through much of the winter. The foliage turns yellow briefly in fall before turning brown and dropping to the ground.