Sunday, July 17, 2016

Catalpa Tree



My Dad has a big catawba tree which he planted about twenty years ago in his backyard. (Just found out that it came from his brother, George, so it came from Toccoa, Georgia - just like my Daddy and me!)  You will see it spelled this way and pronounced this way, but it is really "Catalpa" and it is a native tree.   It is also called Indian bean tree and fish bait tree.  The fruits of the tree are long and bean like and was well known by Native Americans, but why is is also called fish bait tree?  The catalpa tree is a native American tree that is known mostly to fishermen...








The sphinx moth lays eggs on this tree and they hatch into very large caterpillars.  These caterpillars drop off onto the ground and they are very highly prized as bait for catfish!  Here's an amazing thing about this tree, some years the caterpillars might completely eat every single leaf off this tree and yet, this does not harm the tree! Isn't that something?  So, if you see this tree in the South with its large heart shaped leaves and worms are eating the leaves, leave them alone! And if you want to read a great piece about this, you may read it just here-Leave it be!


The word, "catalpa" is from the South, it is derived from the Cherokee language, one of the native American tribes who lived here. (There are Cherokees who still live in North Carolina, they are descended from the few who managed to escape from the forced Indian march to Oklahoma.  You do know about this, don't you? So many died on the way there, it is known as "The Trail of Tears".  Anyway, a great deal of our place names and plant names come from the Indians/Native Americans.)
Okay, where was I before I began thinking of the Cherokee and the forced march? Oh yes, the catalpa...
the Cherokees used to smoke the bean-like pod, they do look a bit like cigars.
Now, you all know how, for some reason, I seem to have an English connection to things. (I really don't look for this, it just happens.)
The oldest known specimen of the catalpa tree is in ...wait for it...
Reading, in Berkshire, England!  The catalpa tree there is about 150 years old, it is in a church graveyard there and it is a magnificent tree.  Reading about it (no pun intended, you pronounce the town "redding"), they tried to get rid of the old tree, and they planted a new one just beside it. Both trees are thriving!  The old one refuses to die!  The old tree is called the "trippy tree" as the hippies in the 60's and 70's used to smoke underneath it.  (I do wonder if they smoked the bean like pods, just as the Native Americans did?) Want to read about the trippy tree or catalpa tree in England?  Here is a link for you:
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Indian bean tree or "trippy tree" in Reading, England!

One thing, I would say to not plant this tree unless you have PLENTY of space, it is very messy, what with the worms and the very large leaves, but man oh man, it is one interesting tree!
This is just one more bit of knowledge from my Dad that I am sharing with you!  

My Dad just called me and told me to turn the TV on to the RFD channel, one of his favorites was on there...
Narvel Felts.  He might not be a household name but hey, if my Dad likes him, that's good enough for me.  

See the things you learn from me and my Dad?

30 comments:

  1. I remember the beans on the trees but for some reason I don't remember the flowers. Isn't that strange?

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    1. To be honest with you, I had never noticed how beautiful the flowers were, until I took these photos back in May just so I could do a post about the tree! This tree is on the back side of my Dad's back yard, and the flowers looked pretty from a distance, but like me, they are GORGEOUS the closer you get to them! HA!

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  2. I always enjoy learning things from you and your Dad, Kay :-)

    Interesting to see how the "fish bait" nickname came about! I think I have seen this tree in the palace grounds. They have some relatively rare (i.e. not native to our area) species of trees there, so coming across a Catalpa tree would not be so unusual. I must check next time I walk in the park!

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    1. Oh, you will have to tell me if you recognize the tree when you next go the palace grounds! It tickled me about the large catalpa tree in England!
      Yes, Meike, it pleases me to know that someone in Germany appreciates my Dad, since I know that Germany has a special place in his heart due to him spending time there when he was only 18! (I think he was there for almost two years.)

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  3. Well that is an interesting tree, one I have never heard of. What beautiful flowers it has, as well as so many other characteristics!

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    1. Stick with me, Patricia. I will be giving a test on all my flowers and trees that I mention in my blog! HA!

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  4. It's really impressive that they would use the caterpillars from the tree as bait like that. Very ingenious way of thinking too. It's a beautiful tree as well. If your dad ever takes up fishing at least he'll have plenty of natural bait!

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    1. Oh yes, my Daddy has been a fisherman for as long as he could walk, I would imagine! He can't really go fishing much now, but you can bet he used those worms for many years at several lakes around the area!

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  5. I never knew it was called a Catalpa tree. You're the second person this week that I've heard it from. We call it a Catawba tree. My neighbor has one and yes, it sure does have big fat worms. It's not far from my garden. Didn't think about that before planting. I sure hope those worms stay on her tree.

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    1. I have also read the worms...not to be gross about it, but I suppose they decay, and that makes very good fertilizer...so, maybe you won't mind it going on your side of the garden!

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  6. There is a Catalpa tree in the front yard of my parents home in New York. It was there for all my growing up years. The sticky, popcorn-like flowers always bloomed this time of year. The long beans stayed on the tree all winter long even where the tree was barren of leaves. I had no idea they grew over such a wide geographical area.

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    1. These flowers were from mid May in Georgia, just goes to show the difference in blooming time, doesn't it? It is a native tree that I think, not too many people know about.

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  7. Never heard of Narvel before.

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    1. Schooling folks on trees and old country music at the same time, how many bloggers do you know like me? :-)

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  8. Thanks for the share! Love your blog.

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  9. Just down the road from me is a line of Catalpa trees that I really love! They were from the time the land was part of a farm. It isn't any longer, but no one has harmed these trees. I love that they bloom in the summer when other trees are past blooming for the year. I've never heard them called Catawba which is the name of an island and a park in Ohio. There is an Indian tribe called Catawba which I had never heard of until just now when I looked it up on google.

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    1. Like you, I had never heard of the Indian tribe in South Carolina...and I was going to mention it but I just hoped that someone else would mention it, and it was you! Thank you!
      Isn't it interesting? I mean, did the name of the tree really come from this native American tribe or was it really a Cherokee word that was similar? I have no idea! (If you remember they name for Brasstown Bald...so called because the Indian word for brass was similar to green!)

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  10. Your Dad is one of those people i would want to live with for a while and just soak up everything he could teach me!

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    1. I think he should go to the college that is close to him and do some teaching! Think of all the things he could teach them!

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  11. Ok, first I love your sunflower header pic! Lovely! Second, we have a catalpa here at the Pines and yes it's messy but I've never seen any flowers or caterpillars on it. It drops the long bean looking pods everywhere. I wonder if there are different species of it that don't flower. Hmmm....thanks for the wisdom from Dad and for sharing it!

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    1. I will have to ask my Dad what you can do to get the worms on your tree! And thanks about the sunflower photo! Just wait, I have more of those to share with you!!

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  12. I love learning about new things, Kay, and this was fascinating. Have a great day! Sending you a hug!

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    1. Hugs to you, Louise! Hope you are having a great summer!

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    1. I do love flowers, I guess you can tell!

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  14. A fascinating post about this tree! I have heard of them, and would have said I have never seen one, but it turns out I have seen one. A famous one as it goes!

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    1. Oh, have you seen the one in Reading! How funny, and I am from Georgia and telling you the name of it! You must admit, that is funny...not ha ha funny, but amusing. xx

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  15. I just found this at one of the wikipedia sites:
    "The name derives from the Muscogee name for the tree, "kutuhlpa" meaning "winged head" and is unrelated to the name of the Catawba people.[2][3] The spellings "Catalpa" and Catalpah" were used by Mark Catesby between 1729 and 1732, and Carl Linnaeus published the tree's name as Bignonia catalpa in 1753.[4][5] Giovanni Antonio Scopoli established the genus Catalpa in 1777."

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    1. Thank you for this research and information!
      Mark Catesby, I am still wanting to do a post about him, he wrote of the "Wildlands of Georgia", so that will be part of my post title about him!
      Thanks again!

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