The northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa), like the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua), produces a pod as its fruit. Because the pod resembles a cigar, the tree is known as the cigar tree. Other names are the Indian bean tree and western catalpa. Unlike the carob tree, the northern catalpa does not grow in the Middle East. It belongs to us in the United States.
The cigar tree was originally thought to be native in only to a small area of midwestern United States near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. However, in 1976, investigation of an archeological site of an island in West Virginia’s portion of the Ohio River showed Catalpa speciosa was on the island around 1500-1700 AD. This finding suggests that the cigar tree may have experienced a decline in range some time before European settlement of the United States. Today, the tree has a broader range to include the areas east of the Rocky Mountains.
Northern catalpas are potentially large trees and can grow more than 60 feet tall.
The crown is irregular or oval shaped and limbs curve upward. Flowers are spectacular! They grow in clusters, are about two inches long, and look like a trumpet. Most are white and are decorated with yellow lines. Occasionally, flowers have purple spots. The fruit is a bean size pod which can contain 8-20 seeds. Initially, pods are green but like the carob tree, pods turn brown as they mature. Unlike the carob tree, pods split when they are ripe.
Further good news about the northern catalpa is that they can withstand occasional salt spray and other urban conditions (think smog and gas emissions). Often the tree is used in storm water retention and to clean the air.
Reflection: The earth and all that is in it belongs to God, i.e., people, trees. The catalpa tree has a role in renewing the earth. I want to renew not destroy this beautiful planet, Terra. What about you are you a re-newer of the earth and of those around you?
Copyright: January 9, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth