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Catalpa Tree
Photo to the left is by John Lillis

With the arrival of June comes warm weather and fun flowers.  One of my favorite plants that blooms in the month of June is the Catalpa tree.  This large flowering tree works in any landscape.

Catalpa, Catalpa speciosa, is a large deciduous tree that grows 50 to 80 feet tall.  The tree has large, tropical, heart-shaped leaves that are deep green in color and 6 to12 inches long.  The flowers are large and showy in May-June.  They are white, orchid-like flowers that are in large bundles, called panicles.  The seeds of Catalpa trees are borne in long bean pods that grow from 8 to20 inches long.  The seeds are deep green and turn brown in the fall.  These bean pods are very prominent for this tree, as it is sometimes referred to as the Indian bean tree, according to the USDA-NRCS.

Catalpa trees are useful as a great shade tree, due to their size.  The biggest problem that most people have with this tree is the mess they make when the bean pods are shed, but on an acreage that wouldn't cause much of a problem.  The tree is very adaptable and can be planted in most soil types, hot locations, wet areas, and even part shade.  They grow fairly fast, so they become great shade trees in a shorter period of time than some other trees.  When planting a Catalpa tree, ensure that there is ample space for this large tree to grow without crowding buildings or other plants.

Catalpa trees are great for apiaries as the flowers are good for honey production.  According to the USDA-NRCS, pioneers used the seed pods of Catalpa trees to make medicines for bronchial infections and asthma.  They used juice from leaves or roots for treating swollen eyes, crushed the leaves for swollen lymph glands, and used dried ground bark for swollen lymph glands.  The USDA-NRCS also says that Catalpa trees are useful as a diuretic; current medical authorities agree. 

Catalpa trees are a beautiful addition to any landscape for flowers in May and June of the year. It is a great specimen tree for any acreage or urban landscape setting - just make sure there is enough room for the full-grown tree.  This tree has great interest even when it is not flowering as the leaves look like they are from a tropical plant and the unique bean pods stay on the tree into the winter months.  Catalpas are easy to grow and can help pollinators with their pollen production.  Consider a Catalpa for a fun and interesting tree that you will love for years to come.

Catalpa Tree
Catalpa Tree
Photo of catalpa tree flowers from Dow Garden Archives at
Catalpa Tree bean pods
Nicole Stoner
Nicole Stoner
Extension Educator - Horticulture

As a professional horticulturist, Nicole's focus areas include trees, shrubs, lawns, gardens, and insects.

Gage County Extension
1115 West Scott
Beatrice, NE

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