Southern Catalpa, Catalpa bignoniodes, is a stunning deciduous tree. With a noteworthy massive trunk, large, brittle branches sprawl up to 60′ tall. Leave in whorls of three, are heart-shaped, simple and massive, to 11″ long and 8″ wide.
Large, tubular white flowers (2″ long) have a showy purple and yellow inner spotting that appear in late spring, later giving way to slender, pencil-thin dark brown seedpods (6-18″ long). The mature seedpods, turning dark brown in fall, lend to the common name of cigar tree. Bark of mature trees is beautifully fissured, with deep ridges of a pale gray-brown.
Historically, the tree has been used just as a breeding site for Catawba worms, the large green and black-spotted caterpillars of the the catalpa sphinx moth, which the tree is a host plant for and whose caterpillars are used as fish bait.
Photo: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center