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Indian Bean Tree

Catalpa bignonioides

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Indian bean tree
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The Indian Bean Tree is somewhat misnamed, as it origins lie in the United States and it doesn’t produce beans either.

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It’s curious name refers to a native-American tribe, at the time known as Red Indians, who lived near to where the tree was first described. That tribe was called ‘Catawba’, but their name was mistakenly recorded as Catalpa by a European botanist at the time.

Catalpa bignonioides is a native tree of the southeastern United States: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. Deciduous in nature with a spreading habit, it has broad-ovate leaves up to 25cm in length and panicles of white bell-shaped flowers in late summer.

Flowering is followed in turn by a profusion of slender hanging bean-like pods. The pods are actually very slim seed capsules that can grow up to 16 inches in length, and are almost perfectly cylindrical. When the pods get hot in late summer, you can hear them popping and splitting before they fall from the tree to spill their seed on the ground below.

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All photography copyright © Andrea Jones
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