Know Your Trees: Catalpa

This week for Know Your Trees, GM is exploring the catalpa. While the city’s records indicate that there is only a single catalpa in Georgetown (on 28th across the street from Evermay) there are actually a handful of beautiful catalpas on the campus of Georgetown Visitation (just down the hill from the tennis courts). They are in bloom right now and are quite a sight.

Catalpas come in two varieties: southern and northern. Both are indigenous to the United States, with the northern being native to the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys in the midwest, and the southern being native to the deep south. The northern catalpas tend to be bigger and have leaves with longer points. They’re not very easy to distinguish though. (The catalpa on 28th St. is identified as a southern catalpa, for the record).

The most distinguishing feature of the catalpa (whether northern or southern) is the leaf shape:

They have large elongated valentine heart shapes. The leaves in this picture (from Georgetown Visitation) are at least nine inches long. GM believes they are southern catalpas, but he’s not certain.

The other distinguishing feature is the beautiful white flowers that cover the trees in May. You can see them above. The flowers have a shape similar to a azalea, and you can see them from far away:

These are spectacular trees that really “pop” in the spring and are consequently quite popular landscape trees. But they’re clearly not favored for sidewalk trees, so you’ve got to venture out a bit to find them.

And remember, GM is helping lead a walking tour about trees from Dumbarton House this Saturday from 12-2. See you there!

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