Catalpa bignonioides Walter

Indian Bean Tree

Deciduous tree to 12 m tall with a broad crown, stout trunk and wide-spread low branches. Bark light brown, thin. Leaves broadly ovate, cordate, often in 3s, 10-20 cm long and almost as wide, dark green above, pale green and softly hairy below, with an unpleasant smell when crushed. Flower clusters much branched. Flowers white, 3-5 cm long, the throat with yellow-orange lines and purple dots, slightly scented, Nov-mid-Dec. Fruit capsules to 35 cm long and about 1.5 cm wide.


This is the most commonly cultivated species.

Medium-sized tree. Leaves unpleasant-smelling when crushed (differing in this way from Paulownia) and frequently arranged in 3s.

VIC: Castlemaine (Castlemaine Botanical Gardens); Parkville (University of Melbourne System Garden (near Biosciences 2)).


C. ×erubescens Carrière (C. bignonioides × C. ovata) originated about 1874 in Indiana, USA, and is generally grown as the cultivar C. 'Purpurea', Purple Catalpa (Purple-leafed Catalpa), which has leaves sometimes 3-lobed and shoots that are dark blackish purple at first, becoming dark green, the stalk often remaining purplish.The white flowers are up to 3 cm long. [C. ×hybrida Spaeth and C. 'Hybrida' are names of a similar or identical clone that originated in the Spaeth Nursery in Berlin in 1898 and that may be distinct from C. 'Purpurea', which originated in the English nursery of A.Waterer before 1886]

Source: Spencer, R. (2002). Bignoniaceae. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 4. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 3. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

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Distribution map

Catalpa bignonioides 'Aurea'

Plant smaller in all parts. Leaves greenish yellow, turning to butter yellow in autumn.

Catalpa bignonioides 'Nana'

Dwarf, rounded, flowerless variant that is generally top-grafted to produce a miniature tree.

Possibly a hybrid with C. ovata, the young leaves being purplish.

Originated 1848, Masson Nursery, France.

kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Asteranae
order      Lamiales
family       Bignoniaceae
genus        Catalpa Scop.