Often mistaken for an Indian bean tree from a distance the Yellow catalpa is very similar with it's leaves and seed pods. It is inly during the summer time when it is flower that identification is made much easier. As the common name suggests the Yellow Catalpa has creamy yellow flowers whereas the Indian bean tree has white flowers. It is small to medium sized deciduous tree and has a fast growth rate. It is not clear when it was original introduced into the UK, but it was first introduced into cultivation in 1849 by the German physician and botanist P F von Siebold. It is now as widely planted as the Indian bean tree, at least not across Exeter. It makes an excellent shade tree and can also tolerate moderate air pollution. To flurish it requires direct and open sunlight and should never be planted directly or near other large trees. It is best suited to parks, green spaces and large gardens. Due to the large leaves and big seed pods it would be a poor choice for a street tree in the UK as it would likely block drains or quickly cover a pavement. It is native to China.
Typically it will grow up to 15m tall and the shape of the crown is round with an undulating outline. The main branches are spread out quite wide and the twigs are quite brittle. It does not fare well in strong winds and can shed multiple branches and twigs. The bark is grey and light brown with vertical fissures. The trunk is fairly straight and the main branches can be quite near to the ground. The buds are very unusual and look a bit like small brown stars. The leaf scars are very big in comparison to the buds.
The bark is grey and light brown with vertical fissures
The buds are very small compared to the leaf scars
The leaves are very big which is one of the main reasons it makes an excellent shade tree. The length of the leaves can be as much as 25cm and the width is up to 15cm. They are heart shaped and are usually 3 lobed but sometimes 5. The underside of the leaf is paler than the surface and it is smooth to the touch. The Autumn leaf colour is a dull yellow and by mid November the leaves are shed.
It is a deciduous tree and can reach heights of up to 15m
The flowers are a soft creamy yellow and the throats are lined with 2 yellow tripes and purple flecks
The flowers are stunning and loved by bees. They are held in upright pyramidal panicles and are a creamy yellow colour. Within the center of the flower are two yellow stripes and flecks of purple. It is hermaphrodite so both the male and female parts are contained within the same flower. Between July to August it is in full bloom and really stands out. The tree will appear to be holding thousands of yellow candles and will be covered in bees and other insect pollinators. c The young capsules are a dull green and over time mature to become brown and papery and will open up to release the small seeds inside. The seeds are wind pollinated and each one has two small fluffy wings.