As you would expect from our company, we close this calendar year with the description of a beautiful botanical variety. This year we have chosen the Catalpa bignonioides. This tree species can be found in the mixed hardwood forests in the southeastern states of the USA.

Merry Christmas 2018 | CATALPA BIGNONOIDES
Merry Christmas 2018 | CATALPA BIGNONIOIDES

The botanical name Catalpa is derived from a term that the indigenous people used for the tree. A local indian tribe known as the ‘Muscogee’ called it ‘Kutuhlpa’, meaning ‘winged head’. The Indians used to use parts of this tree as medication. The British botanist Mark Catesby (1683-1749) discovered the tree in America and was the first to speak of the Catalpa. The species bignonioides is named after the French abbot Jéan Paul Bignon (1662-1743), who was also the librarian and preacher for king Louis XIV at the French Court. The well-known botanist Joseph Pitton (1651-1743) named the tree after the abbot in honour of him. In 1753, Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) published the tree’s name as Bignonia catalpa. The tree was imported to England in 1726, after which it was dispersed among the royal houses and rich merchants in Europe.

In summer, the trees are clearly recognizable by their relatively large, heart-shaped, fresh green leaves. Noticeable are the relatively long petioles, which can grow to 12-15 cm long. The leaves appear on the tree quite late in spring and are shed in early autumn. The elegant white flowers appear in broad panicles that can grow to 15-30 cm long. The tree flowers in the months of June and/or July. The individual, funnel-shaped flowers are shaped like a trumpet, which is why the tree is known as the ‘Trumpet tree’ in the Netherlands. In the months of September and October, the fruits appear as striking green pods, which can become 30-35 cm long. These often remain as withered strands on the tree during winter. In the UK, the tree is known as the ‘Indian bean tree’ or ‘Cigar tree’, thanks to these spectacular fruits.

Catalpa bignonioides can be recognised by its somewhat irregular branching in the crown. It can grow to become 10-15 metres high. Given enough space, the tree can also become very broad with heavy main branches. It prefers a sheltered spot as the fragile branches are sensitive to wind. In general, the tree has few demands on the type of soil, although it does not fair well in very wet soil. The Catalpa bignonioides is suitable for planting in green spaces or in city parks where it has space to grow optimally. The tree often highlights old, monumental buildings or museums.

The most well-known cultivar is probably the flowerless Catalpa bignonioides ‘Nana’, which is often planted in gardens as a grafted spherical tree on a stem. A very ornamental cultivar with striking golden yellow foliage is the Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’, which can often be found in botanical gardens.

De Catalpa Tree by Ryan Bradshaw

“I wish you could see the Catalpa tree
That towers in Tower Grove Park;
To admire its size with your own two eyes,
And the artistry of its bark.
I wish you could hug the Catalpa’s trunk,
Press both your palms against its skin;
And then you could sense the mighty presence
Of the spirit that lives within.

Yes, I wish you could see beyond the wood,
To regard it as your elder;
To accept its shade on a scorching day
And then thank it for its shelter.
To give it respect. To never forget
That it creates the breath of life.
To listen. Its leaves rustling in the breeze
Would offer you peace, and insight.

I wish you could see the Catalpa’s leaves,
Stand beneath them, gazing upward,
With your mouth agape as you note their shape
And the brilliance of their colour.
Every green part is shaped like a heart.
If all could see those leaves above,
Then the world would know: just one tree can grow
One hundred thousand acts of love.

The Catalpa tree has so much to teach;
I wish I could be its student,
Devoting my days to learning its ways
In Tower Grove Park, St. Louis;
To master the skill of just staying still,
To connect with the earth and sky.
To be like the leaf-crowned Catalpa tree
Who is gentle and strong and wise.”

© 2018 Ryan Bradshaw

The photographs of the flowering Catalpa bignonioides were taken by Arie Idema in the gardens of the castle of Haar in Haarzuilens in the Netherlands (
De main picture is taken by Marwin Dekkers in Kronenberg in the Netherlands.

We wish you and your family a very nice Christmas and a happy New Year!
Let the trumpet tree fool ….

Hope to see you again in 2019!

Team Tree nurseries M. van den Oever


Download upper Catalpa bignonioides descriptionPdf download




Catalpa bignonioides (kasteel Haarzuilens Utrecht)
Catalpa bignonioides (castle Haarzuilens Utrecht)
Catalpa bignonioides (China)
Catalpa bignonioides (China)
Catalpa bignonides vruchtdracht
Catalpa bignonides fruiting
Bloeiwijze Catalpa bignonioides (Haarzuilens Utrecht)
Flowering of Catalpa bignonioides (Haarzuilens Utrecht)