Catalpa x desert willow hybrid
Family: Bignoniaceae
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Young tree


  • Angiosperm, Dicot, deciduous


  • 40' to 60' tall and about half as wide

Identifying Features:

  • Simple leaf; yellow-green to brown fall color
  • Heart-shaped to arrowhead-like leaves
  • 6 to 12" leaves, whorled or opposite
  • Deciduous leaf persistence
  • Broadly spreading
  • No terminal buds
  • Terminal flower clusters
  • Distinctive white flowers with spotted throats
  • Long, bean-like fruit
  • Medium summer texture and coarse winter texture
  • Irregular, rounded crown


  • Streambanks and low woods
  • Native to midwest United States (Hardiness zones 4-8)
  • Widely planted outside their natural ranges as ornamental trees for their showy flowers
  • Brittle wood; tolerates hot, dry sites
  • Considered by many to be a weedy tree
  • The tree will grow well in most well-draining soils and grows fast when young
  • Autumn frost can cut back growth


  • Flower:
  • "Perfect" white flowers
  • Throat spotted with purple and yellow markings
  • Terminal clusters
  • Panicles of 20-40 flowers
  • Bell-shaped
  • Wavy petal edges
  • 2" in diameter
  • Blooms in June
  • Flowers are hermaphodite, pollinated by bees

  • Fruit:
  • Long, bean-like capsule, "hanging pod"
  • 8" to 20" long
  • Ripen from green to brown
  • Inedible seeds
  • Contains numerous flat seeds
  • Each seed having two thin wings to aid wind dispersal

Water/Sun Requirements:

  • Sun to partial shade
  • Range of soil types (wet, dry) but prefers moist, well drained soil

Special Adaptations:

  • Has shown an invasive tendancy in Connecticut
  • Used for ornamental or shade trees
  • Grows rapidly to moderate
  • Tolerates heat

Other Info:

  • The largest living Catalpa tree is on the lawn of the Michigan State Capitol, which was planted at the time the Capitol was dedicated in 1873
  • Also known as the Indian bean tree
  • "Bignonioides" refers to the fact that the leaves resemble those of trumpet-vine Bignonia
  • "Catalpa" is said to be a mispronunciation of "Catawba," the name of a first nation American tribe, in whose territory botanists first recorded the tree
  • Crushed leaves of the Southern Catapla have an unpleasant smell
  • Crushed leaves of the Northern or Western Catalpa have no smell
  • Farmers introduced Northern Catalpa to Ohio in order to produce large amounts of relatively lightweight timber for fenceposts since the wood is very resistant to rotting

Reference Sources/Links:

Coombes, Allen J. Trees. New York: A Dorling Kindersley, Inc., 1992. 129-131.

Created by Megan H. 2007