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Hybrid catalpa

Leaves and fruit of hybrid catalpa.

Hybrid catalpa is the result of a cross between the Chinese catalpa and the native southern catalpa. Like other catalpas, this tree has showy white flowers in spring, followed by bean-like seed pods.  This hybrid may be difficult to find in nurseries.  When it is sold, it is often the cultivar 'Purpurea' that is available.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name:

Catalpa erubescens

All common names:

hybrid catalpa

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median,
  • Restricted sites

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Parkway/street,
  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)

Mature Height:

40-50 feet

Mature Width:

40-50 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Road salt

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • May be difficult to find in nurseries,
  • Messy fruit/plant parts

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Showy flowers

Seasons of Interest:

  • late spring

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Broad,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Fast

Transplants Well:

  • Yes


  • Insect pollinators

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

The flowers are beautiful and long-lasting. The wood can become brittle and then is prone to wind damage. The pods create litter in fall.

Disease, pests, and problems

A number of problems are possible including twig blight, Verticillium wilt and powdery mildew

Native geographic location and habitat

Of hybrid origin.

Bark color and texture 

Bark is brownish with thick ridges.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

The large leaves (up to 12 inches long) are either paired (opposite) or in a whorled stem attachment.  The leaves are heart-shaped or sometimes three lobed, with an entire margin.  Fall color is yellow.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Large,  upright cluster of white bell shaped flowers with yellow and purple spots in early summer.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Long, bean-pod shaped seed pods persist into winter.


Cultivars and their differences

Purple catalpa (Catalpa x erubescens 'Purpurea') is a purple-leaved variety.  The leaves are a very dark purple as they emerge in spring.  They change to dark green in summer.

Location of Catalpa erubescens (Hybrid catalpa) at the Arboretum