P80616KOnce in a while, a stray seed of a plant that would normally be considered to be an invasive exotic species happens to grow in a spot where it happens to fit. Those of us who regularly pull up unwanted feral seedlings, are typically skeptical. We probably pull up many such seedlings merely because we do not trust them, or because we do not want them broadcasting their seeds elsewhere in the neighborhood. In our region, Acacia dealbata, blue gum eucalyptus, black locust, pampas grass, broom, poke berry and Himalayan blackberry get no consideration; and their seedlings should be removed as promptly as they are discovered. English ivy does not get much more consideration, but every once in a while, it happens to wander into a situation where it is allowed to stay.

Catalpa is one that we are not quite sure about. It is an exotic species that happens to disperse unwanted seed at times, but is not invasive enough to warrant prompt removal of all seedlings. Many seedlings appeared in the area several years ago, and most were removed because of where they were. However, if any other seedlings have appeared since then, they have been discreet enough to remain unnoticed. It was as if there was a very specific mating season. Catalpa had not been invasive prior to that, and has not been invasive since.

Two of the feral catalpa seedlings appeared on the edge of the parking lot at the Felton Presbyterian Church. One became disfigured and distressed, and finally died before being removed. The other just happened to be in the middle of a parkstrip, and in a location where a good sized shade tree had room to grow. Because no one could find a good reason for removal, it stayed. After only a few years, it is now a good sized and very well structured shade tree that blooms nicely this time of year. It may not last long, since catalpas are short lived, but for now, it is a nice component to the landscape. This weed gets a happy ending.



20 thoughts on “The Good Weed

    1. They have been planted extensively outside of their natural range, and have naturalized in some regions. I saw so many growing wild in Oklahoma that I thought they were native there.

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  1. Here in eastern Australia, the exotic weeping willow is considered a weed. It is very bad for the banks of our creeks and rivers, and is often the subject of clean-up campaigns. Despite this I just love it- the autumn colour it brings to our otherwise fairly uniform green-grey (eucalypt-dominated) countryside, the cheerful apple green of its spring foliage, and the dramatic tresses of its bare branches in winter.

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    1. Well, as much as I dislike the invasive exotics here, I do happen to like the blue gum eucalyptus because I grew up with it. I happen to grow one just for the aromatic juvenile foliage. It gets pollarded, and comes back with blue new growth in spring, comparable to the color of a blue spruce. I just can not let it grow into a full sized tree.

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    1. That is how most of the invasive exotics arrived. Some were imported as forage crops. Some were for timber. The giant reed that infests the San Joaquin River Delta was imported as packing material.

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  2. Though Catalpa, or “cigar-tree” is native here, Princess tree, (Paulownia tomentosa) is not and is considered invasive. I’ve never seen it invade in this area. They seem fairly closely related though not the same genus. The seed pods are very different.

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    1. Although I have herd of it being invasive in some regions, I do not know anyone who has actually witnessed it. They really are fast, but do not last long; even faster and shorter lived than catalpa.


  3. Reblogged this on Tony Tomeo and commented:

    Only three years later, this tree is even more grand. It grows fast. Growth will decelerate as the tree matures, so that the tree should be with us for a good long time.


  4. I would have to do research, but I think one of the varieties is native to North America–in a limited area–southern Illinois and Indiana a few places in Western TN and maybe Arkansas. Or they may have been cultivated in the 1700s and spread from that. But they have been here a long time–were used for fence posts and railroad ties!!! They also get called Catawba, I think. I love them. They’re spectacular in the spring, then have those beans and the lovely heart shaped leaves. I hope the parking lot tree prospers.

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    1. Both Catalpa speciosa and Catalpa bignoides are native to North America. In that particular region, Catalpa speciosa is native, with Catalpa bignoides farther to the south. Of course, they have naturalized in a few other regions that they were introduced into.

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