6 Facts about the Catalpa Tree and its Historical Uses

Catalpa speciosa flowers, leaf and bark
Catalpa speciosa flowers, leaf, and bark
(Public Domain)
Catalpa trees will grow quickly and can reach heights of up to 80 feet. The average and expected height of most Catalpas will be around fifty feet. This tree grows the quickest during its first ten years, reaching about twenty feet tall before it slows down.

The Catalpa is a deciduous tree whose varieties can grow nearly everywhere in the United States.

Northern and Southern Catalpa varieties available for purchase as either seeds or saplings

Visually, and feature-wise, you'll notice its blooming white flowers in the spring. Creating a unique look not seen on many trees. Especially not on trees that can grow as large as the Catalpa. Also, later in the season, you'll see the development of its seed pods. When autumn comes, the leaves of the tree will turn brown and fall off once the first heavy frost occurs. Along with its seed pods.

Some consider the Catalpa tree, with its flowers, to be an ornamental tree. Its white flowers certainly do grab your attention.

The Southern Catalpa tree has been known to be used as a medicine with its bark being boiled to make a tea. Other past uses of the trees leaves, flowers, bark, and roots were as a treatment for snake bites,
whooping cough and malaria. The flowers have been used as a treatment for asthma or as a light sedative. Its pods have also been used as a light sedative. Lastly, the leaves were used as a poultice for wounds. Though it's not recommended you use it for any of these purposes unless you know what you're doing.

The most common species of the Catalpa tree are the Chinese Catalpa, the Northern Catalpa, and the Southern Catalpa. The Catalpa tree also goes by the Indian bean tree, the cigar tree, and (historically) the Catawba.

Is the Catalpa tree edible?

Parts of the Catalpa tree are edible, but not very tasty or don't have much flavor. The bark, the roots, and likely even the leaves are poisonous.

The flowers aren't poisonous though and have a light sweet sweet taste to them. As for the bean pods, the catalpa beans are edible but they do not taste all that great -- some say it's like eating cotton mixed with sawdust. So, while some parts of the tree are edible, the flavor isn't worth it..

Catalpa Tree Facts, Uses and Planting Tips
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