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Audubon® Southern Catalpa
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Southern Catalpa will make the biggest, most extravagant hummingbird feeder you’ve ever seen! In late spring, this flashy native bursts into bloom with huge trusses of frilly white flowers. The blooms are painted with flecks of gold and maroon-purple, and they look like orchids. As soon as they open, hummingbirds arrive on the scene to sip their sweet nectar. After the flowers fade, the tree continues to impress with its canopy of huge, 10- to 12-inch leaves. Songbirds feel safe hidden behind Catalpa’s expansive foliage, and they’ll often build their nests in its branches.
May Benefit & Attract: Hummingbirds, songbirds
Take Birds Under Your Wing
New! Introducing our bird-friendly collection of Audubon® Native Plants & Trees
- Better for Birds, 100% Neonic-Free
- Not Available in non-native regions, states or counties (see Native Regions map)
Bower & Branch is proud to grow Audubon® Native Plants for Birds in partnership with the National Audubon Society to help birds and other wildlife thrive.
- The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow
- This bird-friendly native plant provides food and shelter for local and migrating birds and other wildlife
- Your purchase and planting of this native flora directly supports Audubon’s conservation mission and impact
- Learn how you can help birds in your home and community through Audubon’s Plants for Birds program
- Audubon Native Plants & Trees are free of neonicotinoids and exclusively grown by Bower & Branch
Audubon® is a licensed and registered trademark of the National Audubon Society. All rights reserved.
Size AA (2-3' tall) container grown
- Hardiness Zone: 5-9
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Like Northern Catalpa, Southern Catalpa was found in a limited area before the arrival of settlers from the East. Its native range was centered in Alabama, with populations dipping into Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida. When pioneers discovered this useful tree, they planted it everywhere. The rot-resistant wood made it ideal for fence posts. Soft, light, and exhibiting a pretty grain, the wood was also harvested for cabinets and interior woodwork. As a landscape tree, Southern Catalpa was popular in Victorian times, when outrageous plants were fashionable. It’s now coming back into vogue as more people learn to appreciate the charms of our native flora.
Catalpa is also known as the “Fishbait Tree,” because its leaves are the sole food source for the Catalpa sphinx moth caterpillar, which is considered choice bait for bass, bluegill, and catfish. Birders may be more interested in leaving the fat caterpillars for the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. This roadrunner relative enjoys “Catalpa worms.”
How to Grow
Southern Catalpa is easy to please. This adaptable native thrives in many situations. It grows in dry soil (once established) as well as those that experience seasonal flooding. It tolerates infertile soil and has been used in healing lands degraded by mining. It even grows in part shade, though flowers will be less profuse there—plant it in full sun if you can. Catalpa does drop a fair amount of debris: twigs, bean-shaped seedpods, and of course those huge leaves in fall, so be sure to keep it away from pools and patios.
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