Catalpa Trees

Bushes fill the gap between my neighbour’s stairs and ours. Along with entries at different levels, the greenery helps maintain a sense of privacy between the townhouse entrances.

I noticed one bush grows quickly and needs some extra trimming so that it does not flow through the spindles and take over the stairway. Large heart shaped leaves and branches flank one side. This year, the bush did something unexpected. It exploded with clusters of beautiful orchid-like blooms.

Those clusters reminded me of a very tall tree in the back lane way. It is about 60 foot tall, and from May to early July, it is covered with clusters of flowers. After some image searches and reading, I discovered that it is not a bush but a catalpa tree.  I think it was planted there by mistake. All of the other trees of the same size planted in alternating yard spaces are locust trees. Although both species require a lot of clean-up, the catalpa tree is the belle of the spring.

According to Arbor Day, sun-loving, drought resistant catalpas grow quickly, up to 24” a year. The heart shaped leaves can be up to a foot long and 4-8 inches long. The flowers attract bees, hummingbirds, and the catalpa sphinx moth. The rot-resistant wood has historically been used to make fence posts and railroad ties and even musical instruments. It is also used for carving and boat building.

The following short videos show the catalpa in spring and summer and provide more information about these beautiful trees.

Catalpa in spring, Trees with Don Leopold
Catalpa in summer, Northern Catalpa by Plant Sleuth

The trees are said to symbolize creativity, authenticity and spirituality. Glad this lovely sentinel flanks our home.



  1. I just discovered Catalpa trees this past spring… there’s an abundance of them in our neighbourhood, and they truly are belles of the spring! The flowers look somewhat like orchids!

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