Catalpa Tree

We’ve got a good-sized catalpa tree by the sheep shed.  It wasn’t supposed to be a catalpa tree.  It was supposed to be a “Princess Tree” (Paulownia tomentosa) because  I wanted something that grew really quickly with big leaves and flowers.  The Princess Tree is an import from East Asia, and considered an invasive species in some places.  However, I knew it couldn’t do much damage by the sheep shed and fields, because the sheep and goats would graze it down.

Anyway, after the tree grew big enough to bloom, it became clear it was NOT Paulownia tomentosa, in spite of what the nursery said.  Here I was showing pictures of my Princess Tree to a homesteading list, and a couple of them were going, “Ahhhhh, that’s a Catalpa Tree.”


So it turned out we have a catalpa tree.  Which is okay, just not what I expected.  (I do like for a nursery to ship what I ordered!)

Booming Catalpa tree

Catalpa Tree (Catalpa speciosa)

The goats trimmed it back when it was younger, but it grew back from the roots, so it’s a pretty tough tree.  It’s purported to withstand wet, dry, alkaline soils and hot, dry environments.  Well, good thing it likes hot.

I’m not sure how tall it is now, but it grows to 40′-60′ with a 30′ spread.  I’d say maybe half-way there?

The neighbors have a full-grown catalpa tree in their front yard.

Full-grown Catalpa Tree

Some years, the trees have lots of catalpa caterpillars on the leaves.

Catalpa caterpillars (Ceratomia catalpae)

Catalpa caterpillar (Ceratomia catalpae)

These caterpillars love to munch on catalpa tree leaves, hence the name.  But when they grow up, they become a Sphinx Moth.

Not very impressive looking.  But if I were into fishing, I’d love the catalpa caterpillars, because they make great bait!

As for the tree itself, it looks pretty when it’s in bloom.  And it provides shade.  Guess that’s all we need!

Please comment! I love to hear from readers!

However, don't be surprised if your comment doesn't show up right away. Due to the massive amount of SPAM comments, I've had to change the comment settings tor manual approval instead of automatic. Your comment WILL show up, but sometimes I'm busy and it takes me a while to see it!


  1. schuyler says:

    I’m a realtor and i saw a large tree wtih large leaves, and bunches of deep lavender flowers. My client said it was a caltapa tree but it is not. I don’t know what it is. Oh well. Enjoyed your story.
    Schuyler in Virginia

    • Rural Writer says:

      Sounds like a Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa). What I *thought* I was getting when I bought the catalpa tree and didn’t.

  2. Great story! Thanks. I still think you should go for planting that princess tree. Just make sure your buy it from a different plant seller. 😉 Too bad, I couldn’t be assured that same mistake would happen to me. I actually want to plant a bunch of catalpa trees, around the edges of my ponds, in hope of attracting those particular caterpillars. Natural fish food! LOL! Take care.

    • Rural Writer says:

      This catalpa tree at least has turned out to make great shade for the sheep!

      One thing I have noticed about the catalpa caterpillars. We don’t seem to have them every year, so not a dependable fish food. 😉

  3. Are the catalpa leaves safe for young or mature sheep to eat?
    How about the seed pods?

    • Rural Writer says:

      Hi Joanna…

      I’m not an expert, but we’ve never had any sick sheep. And the goats and llama love eating the leaves and beans, also without apparent ill effects.

Speak Your Mind