Northern catalpa is a medium to large, deciduous tree that typically grows to 40-70’ (less frequently to 100’) tall with an irregular, open-rounded to narrow-oval crown. It is native to a relatively small area extending from western Tennessee, northeastern Arkansas and the lowlands of southeastern Missouri north to southern Illinois and southern Indiana. In Missouri, it typically occurs along streams, bluff bases and in both low and upland woods (Steyermark). Broad ovate to ovate-oblong leaves (to 12” long) are pointed at the tips and rounded to cordate at the bases. Leaves are light green to yellow green above and densely pubescent below. Foliage turns an undistinguished yellow in fall. Flowers can be a real showstopper, however. Bell-shaped, orchid-like white flowers (to 2” long) with purple and yellow inner spotting appear in panicles in late spring (late May to early June in St. Louis). Flowers give way to long slender green seedpods (12-22” long). The seedpods mature in fall to dark brown and then split open lengthwise to release the seeds within. Seedpods give rise to the common name of cigar tree, although they actually are longer and thinner than most cigars. Abundant pods are produced every 2 to 3 years. 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).
Winchester Gardens generally stocks this item.