Northern Catalpa*

Northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa)

Planting Site:

Northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) is a fast-growing, medium to large tree that typically grows to 40–70 feet tall with an almost tropical look due to its large heart-shaped leaves and clusters of spotted white flowers borne in late spring or early summer and succeeded by long, narrow pods. Leaves are light green to yellow green and turn an undistinguished yellow in fall. Bell-shaped, orchid-like white flowers (to 2 inches long) with purple and yellow inner spotting appear in panicles in late spring. Flowers give way to long slender green seedpods (12–22 inches long). The seedpods mature in fall, every two to three years, to dark brown and then split to release seeds. Bark of mature trees is fissured, prominently ridged, and pale gray-brown. The leaves of this species do not emit an unpleasant aroma when bruised, as is the case with the similar southern catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides). No serious insect or disease problems. This is a tough, adaptable tree.

Illinois native species.

Catalpa speciosa


Street: Appropriate for restricted size planting sites; recommended by the City of Chicago Urban Tree Planting List
Park/Residential: Appropriate for landscaped planting sites including public parks, residential property, golf courses, cemeteries, etc.
Legacy: For plantings with an expected life span of more than 60 years; retained 50 percent or more climate suitability in models for the decade 2080
N/R +35 yrs: Not recommended for plantings with an expected life span of more than 35 years