The green catalpa tree has turned
All white; the cherry blooms once more.
In one whole year I haven’t learned
A blessed thing they pay you for.
The blossoms snow down in my hair;
The trees and I will soon be bare…
By W.D. Snodgrass
My earliest memory of this tree is a hot summer day in late August or early September when I was maybe 12 years old. Until then it had just been a fixture in the back yard, just another tree. But that day my brother and his best friend and I sat in its shade talking. The boys thought the seedpods looked just like cigars. Being boys they were eager to try smoking one. Me being a girl and older smirked and got the matches. The boys lit up and puffed hard, my brother started to cough and choke, but his friend just proceeded to try anyhow. Before long both boys were losing their lunch and I was in trouble! I had let them do something stupid….since then I have harbored a grudge against the Cigar tree, and a great memory!
These perennial trees of the southeastern North America were once native to a small area of the central Mississippi Valley basin, western Tennessee, northeast Arkansas, and the lowlands of southeast Mississippi, and eastward to Louisiana. After the arrival of the European the spread of the tree was rapid, it is now found from Kansas south to Texas and eastward!
In the past the bark was used to treat snake bites, and malaria, acting as a quinine substitute. In Flower Essences the Catalpa Tree Essence is used with all matters of the heart. It is a potent, yet gentle healer. It has been utilized in situations of abandonment, separation and betrayal. It is safe enough to use with children who are grieving the loss of a parent through death, divorce, or separation (such as a parent in the military).
The beautiful flowers are visited by hummingbirds. The leaves are the larval food of the Sphinx moth. These caterpillars can be gathered and used as bait for fishing. In the South some people actually plant small orchards just to grow the ‘catawba worm’ for this purpose!
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