Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Catalpa Tree

Quite a few of my friends who have been reading Catalpa Grove noted the picture of the white catalpa flowers.

A catalpa tree in bloom is a nice addition to the late spring or early summer landscape. The white flowers are showy against the very large leaves of the tree. Unlike the other late spring early summer blooming roses and lilacs, catalpa flowers offer little in a fragrance discernable to the human nose.

Up close, the flower has some intricate details and reminds me of an orchid in its appearance. However, a person is not going to collect a handful of catalpa blossoms to present as a bouquet to their significant others.

Other than the flowers, the catalpa tree offers very little in the garden in terms of seasonal changes.

Following the flowers, long cigar like seed pods form and dangle from the tree. In the winter, these pods are hard like small sticks and do not mulch up readily with the lawn mower. The seeds from the pods germinate readily and small catalpa trees spring up in the garden and along unmoved fence rows.

Fall color of the catalpa tree is a dirty and spotty yellow and can be viewed as insignificant in the fall landscape.

Against the winter skies, the tree is a dark silhouette with dangling seedpods. With winter snow, sleet, and winds, the tree generously sheds its debris all over the yard. Due to the potential height and falling debris, the tree is not one for the small landscape and is more suited to large areas of parks and golf courses.

The tree does have one trait, which my wife and I noted immediately when she bought the house. The tree grows rapidly of a foot or more per year. The tree grows 40 to 60 feet in height with a 20 to 40 foot spread. This rapid growth makes the tree ideal for land reclamation and is being grown commercially for its wood which can be used as fence posts; outdoor wood furniture; and railroad ties.

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