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Indian Bean Tree

Catalpa bignonioides

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Bignoniaceae (Bignonias)
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
18 metres tall
Gardens, parks, woodland.

White, 5 petals
The Indian Bean Tree, also known as Catalpa bignonioides, produces exquisite, trumpet-shaped flowers with a creamy white hue and delicate pinkish tinges, adorning its branches during the summer months. These blossoms exhibit a striking elegance and are renowned for their large, showy appearance, making the tree an eye-catching addition to any garden or landscape. Each flower's charming details, from its unique shape to its alluring colours, contribute to the overall appeal of this tree's floral display.
The Indian Bean Tree, Catalpa bignonioides, bears distinctive fruits in the form of long, slender pods that are typically brown or greenish-brown in colour. These pods, also referred to as capsules, have a peculiar appearance and can grow up to several inches in length. Within these pods, small winged seeds are nestled, which often resemble flat beans. When the time is right, these pods split open to release their seeds, fluttering gently to the ground like miniature helicopters. This unique fruiting characteristic adds to the tree's intrigue and allure in the United Kingdom's landscapes.
The Indian Bean Tree, or Catalpa bignonioides, showcases lush, deciduous leaves that are typically quite large and heart-shaped, featuring a vibrant green colouration. These leaves possess a glossy texture and serrated margins, enhancing their visual appeal. In the United Kingdom, during the spring and summer seasons, the Indian Bean Tree's foliage provides ample shade and an inviting canopy beneath its branches, contributing to the tree's overall charm. As autumn approaches, these leaves transition into stunning shades of yellow and golden brown, creating a striking display of seasonal beauty before they drop to the ground.
The Indian Bean Tree, also known as Catalpa bignonioides, is admired for its enchanting fragrance. The tree's blossoms emit a sweet and delicate scent that gracefully fills the air during the summer months, infusing gardens and outdoor spaces with a delightful aroma. The fragrance is often described as a subtle blend of floral notes, with a hint of freshness that is particularly pleasing. In the United Kingdom, the Indian Bean Tree's enchanting aroma adds an extra dimension of charm to its already captivating presence, making it a cherished feature in gardens and green spaces.
Other Names:
Catalpa, Cigar Tree, Southern Catalpa.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Catalpa bignonioides, also known as the Southern Catalpa or Indian Bean Tree, is a species of flowering tree in the family Bignoniaceae. It is native to the southeastern United States and is commonly grown as an ornamental tree. The tree has a broad, spreading crown and large, heart-shaped leaves. In the late spring, it produces large clusters of white, trumpet-shaped flowers. The tree can grow to a height of 60 feet and prefers moist, well-drained soils and full sun. The tree is also tolerant of a wide range of soil types, including clay and sandy soils. The wood of this tree is also used for furniture making and other woodworking projects.


The Indian Bean Tree, or Catalpa bignonioides, is a deciduous tree that is native to the southeastern United States, but has been widely planted in other regions of the world, including India, hence its name. This tree is known for its large, heart-shaped leaves and its showy, trumpet-shaped white flowers that bloom in late spring or early summer. The Indian Bean Tree is also valued for its sturdy wood, which has been used for a variety of purposes, including furniture, fencing, and musical instruments.

Appearance and Characteristics

The Indian Bean Tree can grow up to 60 feet tall and 40 feet wide, and has a broad, rounded crown. Its bark is grayish-brown and deeply furrowed, and its leaves are large, heart-shaped, and light green in color. The tree produces large, showy flowers in late spring or early summer that are white with purple or yellow markings on the inside. These flowers are followed by long, slender seed pods that hang from the branches.

Growing Conditions

The Indian Bean Tree is a hardy tree that can grow in a wide range of conditions, including full sun or partial shade, and in a variety of soil types, as long as the soil is well-draining. The tree is also tolerant of drought, air pollution, and some pests and diseases, making it a good choice for urban or suburban environments.

Cultivation and Maintenance

The Indian Bean Tree is relatively easy to cultivate and maintain. It can be propagated from seeds, but it is often easier to purchase a young tree from a nursery. The tree should be planted in a location with good drainage, and should be watered regularly for the first few years until it is well-established. Once established, the tree is relatively drought-tolerant and does not require frequent watering.

Pruning is usually not necessary for the Indian Bean Tree, but it can be done to shape the tree or to remove any damaged or diseased branches. The tree can also be fertilized in the spring with a balanced fertilizer to promote healthy growth.


The Indian Bean Tree has a variety of uses, both ornamental and practical. The tree's large size and broad, spreading crown make it a popular shade tree, and its showy flowers and large leaves make it an attractive ornamental tree in parks and gardens. The tree's wood is also prized for its strength and durability, and has been used for a variety of purposes, including furniture, fencing, and even the soundboards of musical instruments.

In addition, the Indian Bean Tree has a number of medicinal uses. The tree's bark and leaves have been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including fever, coughs, and digestive disorders. Some research has also suggested that the tree's leaves may have antimicrobial properties.


The Indian Bean Tree, or Catalpa bignonioides, is a versatile and attractive tree that is valued for its ornamental qualities, its sturdy wood, and its medicinal uses. This hardy tree can be easily cultivated and maintained in a variety of growing conditions, and is a good choice for anyone looking for a shade tree or an ornamental tree for their garden or landscape. Whether you are looking for beauty, functionality, or both, the Indian Bean Tree is a tree worth considering.

Facts about the Indian Bean Tree

Here are some additional facts and information about the Indian Bean Tree:

  • The Indian Bean Tree is also commonly known as the Southern Catalpa, the Cigar Tree, and the Fish-Bait Tree, the latter name referring to the use of the tree's seed pods as bait for fishing.

  • The tree's flowers are fragrant and are attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

  • The Indian Bean Tree has a relatively short lifespan compared to other trees, usually living for around 50 years.

  • In some regions, the Indian Bean Tree is considered an invasive species because of its ability to grow quickly and spread easily, often crowding out native vegetation.

  • The tree's wood is strong and durable, but also lightweight, making it a popular choice for making canoes, paddles, and other watercraft.

  • The Indian Bean Tree is a member of the Bignoniaceae family, which includes other well-known species such as the Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans) and the Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia).

  • In traditional medicine, the tree's bark and leaves have been used to treat a variety of ailments, including asthma, bronchitis, and rheumatism.

  • The Indian Bean Tree is known for its ability to attract the catalpa sphinx moth (Ceratomia catalpae), a large and distinctive moth that feeds on the tree's leaves and lays its eggs on the underside of the leaves.

Overall, the Indian Bean Tree is a versatile and attractive tree that offers a range of benefits, from its ornamental qualities to its practical uses in furniture-making and traditional medicine. While it may not be suitable for all regions due to its potential to become invasive, it is a valuable addition to many landscapes and a tree that is worth considering for anyone looking to plant a new tree.

Some more about the Indian Bean Tree

The Indian Bean Tree is also known for its environmental benefits. As a deciduous tree, it sheds its leaves in the fall, allowing sunlight to penetrate through to the ground and providing habitat for insects and other small animals. The tree's large size also makes it an effective carbon sink, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in its wood and other tissues.

In addition, the Indian Bean Tree has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The tree's bark and leaves contain a variety of compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties. These compounds have been used to treat a range of ailments, including infections, fevers, and digestive disorders.

Despite its many benefits, the Indian Bean Tree is not without its drawbacks. In some regions, the tree is considered invasive, and its fast growth and ability to spread easily can lead to it outcompeting native vegetation. In addition, the tree's large size can make it difficult to maintain and prune, and its seed pods can create a mess on the ground when they fall.

Overall, the Indian Bean Tree is a fascinating and valuable species that offers a range of benefits to humans and the environment. As with any tree, it is important to consider its suitability for your particular region and to carefully evaluate the potential risks and benefits before planting. With proper care and maintenance, however, the Indian Bean Tree can be a beautiful and beneficial addition to any landscape.


An Indian Bean Tree filmed at Haigh Hall in Lancashire on the 29th August 2023.


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