Catalpa is a medium sized deciduous tree that grows up to 60 feet tall and 20 feet wide. It belongs to the Trumpet Vine family, Bignoniaceae. There are two species of Catalpa native to subtropical North America, the rest of the genus is distributed in tropical regions of the Caribbean and East Asia. They can be recognized in our area by their large heart shaped leaves, which are 5-10 inches across. Catalpa flowers are showy, white, and tubular, 1-2 inches across, often with yellow within the flower tube. Another unique feature of Catalpa are its very long fruits which are 10 inch long pods, resembling giant peas. These pods may persist on the tree into winter. Each pod contains many light brown, winged seeds, which are released as the pod dehisces or “opens up” when ready. Catalpa has been propagated for its ornamental value as a shade and wildlife tree and due to its strange fruits. Several individuals can be found in Lake of the Pines, and it is fairly commonly found in the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada Foothills.
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