CATALPA—Indian Bean Tree (Catal’pa)
A small group of fairly large wide-spreading trees, native to North America, the West Indies and eastern Asia, belonging to the Bignonia family, Bignoniaceae. About ten different kinds are known, of which the majority are leaf-losing; a few are evergreen. They flower in the early summer. Catalpa is a North American Indian name.
When to Plant. While the Catalpas will grow in ordinary well-drained garden ground, they thrive best in deep, loamy soil. Young trees are planted in spring or early fall. A sunny position should be selected.
Propagation. Seeds sown in a cold frame, greenhouse or outdoors, when ripe, provide the best means of increase. Failing these, cuttings made of the ends of half-woody, nonflowering shoots can be rooted in summer. Root cuttings also provide an easy method of increase. Grafting is practiced to increase special varieties No definite pruning is required, but when the trees are young it is usually necessary to maintain a straight leading shoot by cutting off any side branches likely to interfere with their development; old trees benefit if weak, worn-out branches and dead wood are cut out in late summer.
The Indian Bean is Catalpa bignonioides of the eastern United States. It forms a leaf-losing, round-headed tree, 30-60 ft. high, with wide, spreading branches having large, broadly ovate leaves 10-12 in. long, and 5-8 in. wide. The many-flowered panicles of bloom are borne freely. The white, frilled, bell-shaped flowers are striped with yellow inside and dotted with purple. These are followed by slender, beanlike fruits, some 8-12 in. long, from which the tree gets the name Indian Bean.
A Beautiful Golden-leaved Tree. Catalpa bignonioides aurea is one of the best golden-leaved trees; the color lasts well from spring to autumn. The Western Catalpa, C. speciosa, is a tree of taller and rather stronger growth than the Indian Bean; it forms a handsome pyramid 40-80 ft. or more in height. It has large ovate leaves and panicles of white, frilled flowers spotted with yellow and purple; it is readily distinguished from C. bignonioides by having fewer flowers in a panicle and by its more vigorous and
more upright growth. Catalpa hybrida is a hybrid between C. bignonioides and C. ovata that is commonly planted. Its flowers resemble those of C. bignonioides but are smaller. Its young leaves are purplish.
The dense round-headed Catalpa that is most often grafted atop 6 ft. tall stems to form mop-headed specimens that never bloom and that are of stiff formal appearance is C. bignonioides nana. It is often wrongly named C. Bunger, which name correctly belongs to another species.
Other Catalpas worthy of inclusion in a representative collection of trees are C. ovata, C. Bungei, C. Fargesii and its variety Duclouxii; all of these are natives of China.