Meadow Rue Northern Catalpa Tree – Another of Nature’s Wild Gifts in My Garden

Early this morning, I was sitting on my patio drinking coffee, and some large, white flowers waved at me from a distant part of my garden. I knew that I hadn’t planted any shrubs in that area. In fact, the blossoms were in a part of my yard that I hardly use at all, and that is probably the secret behind the survival of my mystery plant. I examined the plant closely and my subsequent Google search revealed that my exotic, orchid-looking flowers had been produced on a Northern Catalpa Tree, a plant that some people call Meadow Rue. Although there is a wildflower that is also called Meadow Rue, this type of Meadow Rue is a rapid -growing tree that often reaches 70′ tall and that can sometimes tower up to 100.’ My research indicates that the flowers will not grace the tree for about 7 years. As I think back, I realize that I have chopped and discarded several of these trees before. I am glad that this guy was growing in a place beyond my focus. Otherwise, I would have cut his life short before he had the time to bloom, too. In gardening and in appraising people and life’s situations, we are often too quick to judge, and in our haste in judgment, we are inclined to deprive ourselves of the gifts that fall around us.

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My grandmother loved to fish, and I remember helping her collect what she called catalpa worms. She used them for fishing bait.

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I don’t remember any gorgeous flowers growing on my grandma’s catalpa trees, but I do remember the long beans that will follow the blooms.

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Apparently, a type of caterpillar feeds on catalpa leaves. In time, the catalpa caterpillar evolves into a Sphinx Moth. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of leaves to adequately feed a catalpa caterpillar, and a few caterpillars can completely strip a catalpa tree. Now, that I am aware that I have an exotic treasure growing in my yard, I’ll be on a sharp watch for caterpillars. I want my catalpa leaves and flowers for myself.

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My catalpa tree is young, and its trunk is relatively smooth, but in several years, the wood will be textured.

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The trunks of the older trees often contort and twist into any number of unique shapes.

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©Jacki Kellum June 13, 2017

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