Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Southern Catalpa - Catalpa bignonioides   Walter
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Section 6 » Order Scrophulariales » Family Bignoniaceae
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DistributionMostly in the southern Mountains; scattered in the Piedmont, Sandhills, and Coastal Plain. First collected in NC in 1896 and 1897 in Buncombe County, and 1899 in Madison County. Specimens from elsewhere in NC (not mapped) are from cultivated plants or are misidentified.

It is thought to have been native to the Coastal Plain of southern SC to FL and MS; but early cultivated and escaped north to MA and MI.
AbundanceUncommon to locally fairly common in the southern Mountains, but rare elsewhere.
HabitatRoadsides near creeks, roadsides near lakes, edge of swamp forest, bottomland forest, edges of streams and rivers; also mesic uplands of roadsides, pine woods, urban and suburban thickets.
PhenologyFlowering May-July; fruiting August-October.
IdentificationSouthern Catalpa is a familiar yard or park tree, potentially to 60 feet tall but usually half that or less. It has a full crown of large, broadly ovate leaves that quickly narrow to a pointy drip-tip. Many flowers are produced on open upright panicles 6-10 inches long, each flower pointing horizontally or nearly so. The very large corollas are broadly tubular with flaring, frilly lobes, white with purple or violet lines as well as 2 rows of yellow dots in the throat. C. speciosa is similar but its leaves are gradually tapered to a point (the sides are rather straight vs. curved in C. bignonioides), and its flowers are larger (4-6 cm wide vs. 2-4 cm wide in C. bignonioides), with bolder lines in the throat.
Taxonomic Comments
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State RankSE
Global RankG3G4
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