Southern Catalpa, Catawba, Indian Bean Tree, Fish-Bait Tree
Catalpa bignonioides

Family: Bignoniaceae (big-no-nih-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Catalpa (kuh-TAL-puh) (Info)
Species: bignonioides (big-non-YOY-deez) (Info)

Category:

Trees

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Flowers are fragrant

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us

Height:

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)

Spacing:

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Danger:

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Pollen may cause allergic reaction

Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring

Late Spring/Early Summer

Foliage:

Deciduous

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Non-patented

Propagation Methods:

From semi-hardwood cuttings

From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

Regional

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

,

Huxford, Alabama

Jones, Alabama

Midland City, Alabama

Skipperville, Alabama

Vincent, Alabama

Phoenix, Arizona

Peel, Arkansas

Hermosa Beach, California

North Fork, California

Rancho Cucamonga, California

Sacramento, California

Whittier, California

Clifton, Colorado

Ellendale, Delaware

Pensacola, Florida

Cohutta, Georgia

Rome, Georgia

Tifton, Georgia

Chatham, Illinois

Chicago, Illinois (3 reports)

Rockford, Illinois

Indianapolis, Indiana

Iowa City, Iowa

Lawrence, Kansas

Topeka, Kansas

Benton, Kentucky

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Jonesville, Louisiana

Pollock, Louisiana

Prairieville, Louisiana

Zachary, Louisiana

Valley Lee, Maryland

Dunstable, Massachusetts

Detroit, Michigan

Saginaw, Michigan

Amory, Mississippi

Piedmont, Missouri

Smithville, Missouri

Reno, Nevada

Morristown, New Jersey

Neptune, New Jersey

Perth Amboy, New Jersey

Roswell, New Mexico

Brasher Falls, New York

Copake, New York

Andrews, North Carolina

Belmont, North Carolina

Columbus, North Carolina

Corapeake, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina

Bucyrus, Ohio

Cincinnati, Ohio

Heath, Ohio

Marion, Ohio

Sandusky, Ohio

Hulbert, Oklahoma

Jay, Oklahoma

Lawton, Oklahoma

Mulino, Oregon

Salem, Oregon

Conway, South Carolina

Spartanburg, South Carolina

Summerville, South Carolina

Nashville, Tennessee

Amarillo, Texas

Anderson, Texas

Arlington, Texas

Austin, Texas

Cedar Lane, Texas

Dallas, Texas (2 reports)

De Leon, Texas

George West, Texas

Hurst, Texas

Kempner, Texas

Leakey, Texas

Mc Kinney, Texas

Round Rock, Texas

Rusk, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Santa Fe, Texas

Spicewood, Texas

Woodville, Texas

Magna, Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah (2 reports)

Dumfries, Virginia (2 reports)

Woodbridge, Virginia

Olympia, Washington

Falling Waters, West Virginia

Rosedale, West Virginia

Malone, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:

26
positives
10
neutrals
4
negatives
RatingContent
Negative

On Dec 8, 2014, NCMstGardener from Columbus, NC wrote:

As a youth, I called this the "Indian Cigar Tree" and actually smoked the pods. One grows 200 yards away in a neighbor's North Carolina pasture and that is close enough. The is a really messy tree and it's huge leaves are a pain to rake up
An interesting tree but not very desirable.

Negative

On Nov 3, 2014, CindyLewis from Dallas, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

This is the only living tree I have ever cut down. The trunk was over 3 feet in diameter. The leaves smell like cigarettes, but the main problem is the caterpillars. They completely strip the huge leaves off the tree so that it cannot even provide shade in the summer and they fall like rain. Truly yucky.

Neutral

On Sep 8, 2014, NationsCapitol from Washington, DC wrote:

we got have this tree in my yard. it is pretty. it throws sticks at me when i go to work. the dam thing is big big big. i lik the shad but the stiks....dam! it has catapilers tat are large and sometim will atak you. my nex door nebor get them for fising at the river. esept for the shad i got no use. it is a big tree but we cand it not be to able to talk bad about it. we like it

Positive

On Feb 6, 2014, Catalpalover from Newington, VA wrote:

As everyone can tell by my user name, I like the tree. My family farms for a living and uses this tree as a fence row. We cut up Catalpa and Cedar for fencing as they both do not rot quickly. Catalpa trees are very pretty. I do not currently have much to do with the family farm, however I took a small one from there and planted it at my current house. Hurricane Isabel in 03 topped it, so I had to try to shape it up. It was still little then. (about 6 at the base) It grew back very quickly. Now it is about 30 inches at the base. It flowered before it got topped, but did not flower again till about 3 years ago. I now live in an urban development, not a farm. So I am not sure if this makes a difference? In any event, this is a great tree that I would recommend to anyone that wan... read more

Positive

On Jul 25, 2011, tonypinokla from Lawton, OK wrote:

my toy pug became drowsy after chewing on one of the bean pods from my catalpa tree. It is truly halucinagenic like people have said it is.

Positive

On May 28, 2011, CuriousJill from Amarillo, TX wrote:

My tree is a three year-old volunteer. I have a question: I have a single bee making a home in a hollow tube of a garden table, he/she is biting off bits of the Catapa leaves and taking them into the table. How ODD! Is this common?

Also, a young female squirrel likes to snack on the leaves. So far, an amusing tree!

Neutral

On Mar 19, 2011, delchiaro from Sacramento, CA wrote:

I agree with many of the previous comments about the upsides of this tree. We had a very tall Catalpa in our Sacramento backyard for many years. Beautiful flowers and leaves. However, we just had the tree cut down which left a lot of sawdust on the ground. Soon after, we had a good rain storm creating puddles in the yard around where the tree used to be. A day later, literally thousands of earthworms surfaced and died. It is amazing to see so many worms in one place. You couldn't walk anywhere without stepping on one. Sad they are all dead. I've read that the roots are poisonous but apparently the sawdust is also quite bad for worms.

Positive

On May 9, 2010, davescastle from (Zone 7a) wrote:

I live in my family home which has been in the family since the 1930s when it was built. There are two large Catalpa trees in the yard which were planted by my grandfather for shade before air conditioning. Both of which he planted just after the house was built. The trees are quite large at the base but not as tall as you may think. (45-50 feet maybe) I remember collecting the worms as pets when I was a kid. Dad hated the worms because in bad years they would almost defoliate the trees. This did not seem to harm the Catalpas because they always came back in full force the following year. The worms are much better looking than the moths that come later. Some years the worms were plentiful, and other years there were almost none. Catalpas do produce lots of bean pods that fall of... read more

Neutral

On May 2, 2010, silverkathy8 from Chicago, IL wrote:

Beautiful tree but MESSY! We live in Chicago and are constantly cleaning up the dried bean pods from our yard, the neighbor's yards, the sidewalk, etc. There is a much older Catalpa tree across the street from us and it produces considerably less bean pods. Maybe these taper off with age? The upside is that the leaves are large and pretty and the flowers are lovely, albeit short-lived.

Positive

On Nov 27, 2009, dannyochase from Indianapolis, IN wrote:

We have lots of these trees on our place. 2 big ones 50' tall and 3' in diameter, are favorites for their nice shaped curving branches, nice display of flowers in spring, and good shade for the house. the large leaves are beautiful too. many young ones pop up each year all around the yard and we have some in all sizes now. we prune out most of them and keep the lucky ones that started in some good places.

Positive

On Jun 6, 2008, therica from Falling Waters, WV (Zone 7a) wrote:

Despite a number of potential negative's for some people, these are spectacular trees. They're plentiful in our area, and free-seed, growing wherever they can find a place-- all through our gardens, cracks in the concrete, you name it. On the other hand, they grow very quickly and can be transplanted elsewhere, if desired.

The June shower of huge lovely-scented flowers is spectacular! Their large leaves give an immense amount of shade. The trees grow up quickly and with minimal or no care (better when placed very young and active), so if you want quick shade, this is your tree.

The huge foot-long seedpods can be a bit of an annoyance but they seem to just dissipate into the ground and make good mulch after a short time. The large leaves make a bit of a de... read more

Positive

On Apr 1, 2008, LiliMerci from North of Atlanta, GA (Zone 8a) wrote:

This information was given to me by RainbowRider. I thought it was very interesting and was given permission to add to the plant file.

Catalpa worms are the fish-bait of choice for many anglers here in the south. From scale fish to catfish. The only food supply for the Catalpa worm/caterpillar is the leaves of the Catalpa tree. The leaves get huge, as big as or bigger than a tobacco leaf. The tree itself grows extremely fast and tall. I've planted seedlings that would grow at least 1ft in 1 week. To get the worms on the tree a certain Moth/Butterfly has to lay its eggs on the leaves and they hatch very quickly, as soon as they hatch they immediately start eating the leaves non stop 24 hours a day and reach adult size "4.5" inches in about eight days. Some adults will crawl ... read more

Positive

On Jul 25, 2007, debbiegadsden from Nanoose Bay
Canada wrote:

I love this tree. It is not natural to my area, the east coast of Vancouver Island, which is off the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. I picked up a spindly little tree from a flea market and it has grown very quickly here, we are in a very warm micro-climate for the area. Does anyone know how old the tree has to get before it gets the "pods"? Mine is about 4 years old now and is still only producing flowers. It could be possible it doesn't get enough water in order to produce the pods. I'm not sure if that would make a difference or not. I have not seen a single caterpillar yet! Love to hear from anyone, anywhere.

Positive

On Jul 15, 2007, Sheanie wrote:

I notice catalpa trees on old farmer's home steads. Our home was built in 1867 and we have a huge old catalpa that I just love. It must have been a popular tree about 75 years ago, because alot of them in Saginaw are about that old. I am curious about the caterpillars mentioned here. We have never seen any on our tree. And our seedlings that self sow flower after only 3 years. They grow fast, up to a point, then they seem to slow down. The shape is very distinctive, easy to spot year round because of the beans. I think people mistake catalpa trees for dead in the spring because they are the last to bud here, and they do look dead. Then they bud and flower fully in mid June. Sometimes they will re-flower again a month later, but more sparsely.

Positive

On Jan 1, 2007, Donnaearthmama from Whittier, CA wrote:

Yay! Thank you guys for this website and all your helpful comments!

Our Catalpa tree was huge and healthy when we moved into our house 7 years ago. It's more than 40 feet tall now. We didn't know what it was -- I just found out its name from this site today! -- but my husband refers to it as the "evil tree" because between the seed pods, the blossoms, and the enormous leaves, it is really messy. However, it has the most wonderful shade! We live in Southern California and it gets really hot here in summer. We have several parties at our house in summer and our friends think the tree is great. We have it trimmed into a sort of canopy shape. With its long branches that twist across each other, it's a good tree for climbing.

I've never noticed any caterpillars, ... read more

Positive

On Jul 25, 2006, Beachcares from Nashville, TN wrote:

This tree is awsome. My brother planted it 40 yrs ago and its going strong. Its wayyy over our house, so probably 40-50 ft...I am getting a picture. Everyone that comes to the house says its the most georgeous tree.

I am still reading and someone may have asked but what do we do with the cigar like things that grow? The birds open them up so it must be seeds. I would like to look into saving those and giving or selling these so these trees will live on.

Neutral

On May 3, 2006, Marsipan from Austin, TX wrote:

We have two of these trees in the front yard of our rental house (now, two-years residents). Do not know age, but the catalpas are over twenty-five-feet tall. They bloom dramatically every March. The blossoms are overwhelmingly, dreamily, sweetly fragrant for about two weeks. The trees do make a mess of the yard when the huge leaves & pods drop, but a true gardener knows that the organic matter that drops to the ground will always contribute to the health of future plants in the fertile soil!

Neutral

On Mar 28, 2006, ineedacupoftea from Denver, CO wrote:

Can sometimes exhibit iron chlorosis in Alkaline soils when Catalpa speciosa (Northern Catalpa) does not, thus the Northern Catalpa can be used as root stock.

Neutral

On Oct 26, 2005, Sarahskeeper from Brockton, MA (Zone 6a) wrote:

Not a very attractive tree. Large heart shaped leaves turn dead deep gray in fall. Scraggly limbs appear dull black in winter with messy bean seed pods littering the area.
The flowers are the only redeeming factor for this tree. Large clusters of fragrant orchids, each about 2 inches wide.
A great tree for 'Polarding'. Where a 20 foot tree is cut in half and 'suckers' are allowed to grow from just below the cut to form a Lollipop effect. Cut the suckers back to the trunk each spring to keep the shape. This, unfortunately, eliminates any flowering. But looks grand.
Andy P

Positive

On Oct 8, 2005, Sheila_FW from Fort Worth, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I can remember as a child in central Louisiana, my stepfather teaching me how to fish. I throughly loved to go fishing with him. We had a Catalpa tree that we gathered the cats from for fishing. He would put them in the freezer! A few weeks later when we got to go fishing, we would pull the jar out of the freezer and put it in the boat. Before we got to the lake they would be crawling again.... I was amazed!

Negative

On Nov 10, 2004, tazzo from chicago, IL (Zone 5b) wrote:

Messy,12 mos.per yr.,with little fragrance of blossoms. On a small city lot this 40 ft.r will anger neighbors on all ajoining properties. A blizzard of beautiful snowy orchids with deep orange centers covers everything near,but for only 1wk.per yr. Leaves larger than a big man's hand fill many bags if not shredded & composted. Heavy pods 16"-18" long have very sharp tips suitable for children's wepons. Wrong tree,wrong location,beware the catalpa.

Positive

On Aug 1, 2004, lessa from Mulino, OR wrote:

I've just received a catalpa tree from a "neighbor" where I live in the mid-Willamette Valley of Oregon. She regularly starts seeds from her two trees which I consider magnificent. One is in her front yard and during a very hot day just calls to you to sit, put your feet up and sip a cool drink. Her trees have 'beans' about 18" long and she says even with the dropping, it is well worth having it for shade and fragrance. I'm looking forward to my own 3' seedling growing and enhancing our country road.

Negative

On Jul 14, 2004, chicochi3 from Fayetteville, AR (Zone 6b) wrote:

The tree is pretty enough, but has caterpillars on it that fall off and get all over your porch, the yard, the road, your vehicle. Every time you step out the door, you squash them on the bottom of your shoes, and have squashed caterpillars everywhere you walk. The trees are not worth the trouble caused by the caterpillars.

Positive

On Jul 8, 2004, SoConfused from Belmont, NC wrote:

My boyfriend and I are HUGE fishers. As we were driving to get out bait, he took me...to a tall, beautiful plant with that he called, a "Bean Worm Tree". As I looked at the tree, it looked like a typical plant to me, nothing special about it But when he turned the leaves over, there was what looked like to me, a green and black catipillar. He said that the tree "produces" the worms!!! Just like a peach tree produces peaches, he said a bean worm tree produces "bean worms." Now I find it VERY hard to beleive that a plant, or tree, can bloom "a living insect!" So please, someone clear this up for me and him... and tell me how the worms got there.

Editor's Note: The Catalpa tree is known for attracting sphinx moths (also known as "Catalpa Sphinx Moths") and the females l... read more

Positive

On Jul 8, 2004, jlane from London
United Kingdom wrote:

A colleague and I had, quite separately, observed this tree growing from a pavement in London, England totally surrounded by pavement between a pub and a bus stop. It was through your website that she discovered the species which we had both wondered about as this lovely specimen has not been spotted anywhere else in England. Thank you.

Positive

On Jun 16, 2004, Wingnut from Spicewood, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

One of the top ten comment-getters in my yard. My grandma planted this years and years ago ~ Mom said she remembers the tree being mature sized when she first came here in 1952. I never have seen any catalpa worms on it though.

Blooms look identical to Proboscidea louisianica, a fleshy annual.

Positive

On May 23, 2004, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

The roots are supposed to be highly poisonous. The flowers may cause dermatitis in some people and their odor may be poisonous. It is usually deer resistant.

The name catalpa is derived from the name given to the tree by the South Carolina Catawba Native American tribe who are reported to havesmoked the bean pods for a hallucinogenic effect, hence the bames "Indian cigar tree", "Indian bean", and "smoking bean". The name Catalpa" is derived from the Cherokee language.

Trees do not usually begin to flower until they are 7 years old and produce good seed crops when 10 years old. Seeds are naturally shed in late winter as the drying fruits split. Collection should occur after the fruit has dried and turned brown. Seeds can be stored if kept dry and cold for up ... read more

Positive

On May 19, 2004, Grandpastree from Snellville, GA wrote:

I have 6 Catalpa trees. My grandparents had 1 large one while I was growing up. As babies came up I asked if I could have them. They put them in coffee cans. I didn't own a home so I upgraded the size of their pots every couple of years, not letting them get too large. We lived in California.

My grandfather passed away 3 years ago. Shortly after that we moved to Georgia. We packed everything on a moving truck but my 6 Catalpas came with us in a U-Haul trailer. I didn't know if they would survive the drive across country but they did.

After we bought a home we planted the trees. They have been in the ground for a year and a half. They are already over 12 feet tall! They're beautiful! They have such a special place in my heart because they came f... read more

Positive

On May 1, 2004, hangfire wrote:

I live in north Louisiana and there are literally hundreds of these trees around here, the folks around here use them mostly for fish bait, but my friend in Jonesville,La. has about four of them in her backyard and none of them have worms on them and she says never have. I have heard several stories about these trees and some say there are male and female trees also that some trees never have worms. I have also heard that if you break a small limb and leaves that have worms on them and hang them on a tree that don't have worms that the worms will eat the leaves that are closest to them and then go to the leaves on the tree with no worms, can someone enlighten me on this? I sure would appreciate it...

Positive

On Apr 14, 2004, Maudie from Harvest, AL wrote:

One of these came up in my huge flower garden and I let it remain. It is a fast growing tree here in Alabama and now provides shade for shade loving plants.
The flowers are very beautiful and bees
love them. There is another one some distance away that provides fishing worms for friends who want them. They are later
leafing out than most trees and the leaves alone are very pretty.

Positive

On Apr 12, 2004, OzzieGardener from Wangaratta
Australia wrote:

We have three of these trees growing in our back yard. We are in north east Victoria, 144.18 m above sea level, about 500 kms north of Melbourne. Because of lack of care before we moved in, these trees were stunted (5' tall & spindly). Since caring for them & pruning them, they have grown to 20' tall in 18 months. They generally grow slowly in Australia. In this area we can go from minus 6 degrees Celcius to over 45 degrees Celcius in the same week. They can cope with drought for up to four years in a row and being under water during flood season for up to 10 days at a time. These trees are tough! Our native birds love them as well as the bees and insects.

Positive

On Apr 5, 2004, ObjectiveMatt from Hermosa Beach, CA wrote:

I'm growing a few catalpa trees. Largest is currently 5 feet tall. I live in Southern California (Hermosa Beach) and I got my seeds from a on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii in Princeville on the top of hide-a-way beach.

I've also seen really beatiful golden catapla (which is center stage) in Vanduesen Gardens (really nice botanical garden) in Vancouver, Canada. I'm still trying to get seeds for this so can grow my own.

The golden is really something to see and only about 20-25 feet tall. In addition there are plenty of standard green ones outside the garden near thieir parking lots 40-60 feet tall and I've seen a few planted around Vancouver just on the street in front of people's homes (in the strip between the street and the sidewalk) so they were put ... read more

Neutral

On Aug 14, 2003, Luba wrote:

I am very interested in learning the difference between the Catalpa and Catawba trees. I have just started researching them on the internet. I think the trees on our new property are Catalpa trees. They get large white flowers in the spring, which fall. Then they get large heart shaped leaves followed by long pods. By fall, the pods dry up and fall along with the leaves. We are CONSTANTLY cleaning up after them. We lovingly call them the giving trees because it keeps us cheerful as we rake! If anyone can share more insight as to the different names I'd be most appreciative. Thanks! P.S. I live in Central Ohio and our trees are about 60 feet tall. I hear they were originally planted by the farmer who owned this property during the depression because he wanted to use them as fence posts when... read more

Positive

On Jul 27, 2003, Dorsey wrote:

I grew up in North Carolina (U.S.) and have very fond memories of the Catawba trees that grew beside our fish pond out back. My Dad caught a lot of fish with the Catawba worms that he picked off those trees! I also remember my Dad keeping the worms in a cigar box in the refrigerator. I especially remember the time he didn't put the top on really well and how mad my Mother was. I don't think she approved of worms in her refrigerator!!

I have decided to plant a Catawba tree and have begun to research them on the internet. This research is really bringing back those fond memories of growing up and learning to fish. Of course, my fishing instructor was none other than my Dad who enjoyed fishing more than any person I have ever known. My Catawba tree will be planted in h... read more

Positive

On Jul 24, 2003, laneybob from Lake Park, GA wrote:

Years ago my father use to put catawba worms in a cigar box and put them into the refrigerator to keep until the next morning for fishing. He use to turn them wrong side out and they were great fish bait. He planted his own tree, but he died before it got very big. I always think of this great outdoorsman when I see a beautiful catawba tree.

Positive

On Jul 23, 2003, poorgeorge from Rock Hill, SC (Zone 8a) wrote:

I grew up in Georgia (U.S.) and we hunted for the Catawba trees just to get the worms. We'd cut them in half and turn the half inside out on the hook. The best Bream bait ever! I didn't even know that they flowered. I have one started here, four years old now but no flowers yet; it's only eight feet tall so far. The big leaves are a show, too. I'm also waiting for the worms, lol

Neutral

On Jun 15, 2003, Stonebec from Fort Worth, TX (Zone 7b) wrote:

This tree was full grown in my yard when I moved in 10 years ago. It is a good, smooth-bark climbing tree for my kids. Branches are sturdy and the bark is a pleasant gray-green. The leaves and flowers are very interesting. The kids are allowed to go barefoot in the spring when they can find a catalpa leaf as large as their face. I might never have heard of this tree or chosen to plant it, but we do enjoy it.

Positive

On Jun 14, 2003, fishbait wrote:

The web-building caterpillar that eats the Catawba leaves serves a useful purpose. The sphinx moth lays the eggs which hatch into caterpillars. They make EXCELLENT fish bait for Red Breast Bream!

Neutral

On May 15, 2002, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

This tree gets quite large here in the South and grows rapidly.I've seen them over 60 feet quite often...some much larger.

In mid May it is covered with orchid like blooms that are breath taking.

On the down-side,the leaves and seed pods are quite large and when they drop in the fall make quite a mess.I still love the trees,and enjoy them each year.They are also suseptable to web building catapillars that get annoying.

For quick shade and a great Spring show,the faults can be overlooked by someone who enjoys something different.

Neutral

On Sep 9, 2001, mystic from Ewing, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

This is a medium sized tree that gets from 35-40 feet.Has large heart-shaped deciduous leaves, and clustered ,frilly, bell-shaped,white flowers striped with yellow and spotted with purple in the early summer.These are followed by thin, long cigar-shaped pods,6 to 20 inches long.