We usually think of the colors of leaves in the fall. But the young leaves of spring contain equally magical colors. The leaves in the photo are from the catalpa/catawba tree. When I was a kid we called them cigar trees and Indian bean trees because of their long, bean-like seed pods which were fun to play with. The leaves of this native flowering tree eventually become heart-shaped or three-lobed. They are the sole source of food for the catalpa sphinx moth caterpillar. When caterpillars are numerous, infested trees may be completely defoliated. Due to their large leaf size, catalpas are a popular habitat for many birds, providing them good shelter from rain and wind.
Because the caterpillars are an excellent live bait for fishing, some dedicated anglers, particularly in southern states, plant catalpa mini-orchards for their own private source of “catawba-worms”.
Catalpa is occasionally used as a tonewood or sound board in guitars. Who knew?