At first sight the empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa) I am following in Cardiff’s Bute Park looked just the same as last month, so I let myself wander a bit.
Another tree nearby had been bugging me, as it also looked like a Paulownia and I really wanted my empress to be unique in this vicinity.
But first an October catch-up with the empress herself.
The capsules are still green so it will be interesting to see in which month they dry out and whether it will be before or after the leaves fall.
If I am not mistaken, there also seem to be new flower buds forming – the ones that always make me think they are covered in cocoa powder…
Meanwhile this is the tree nearby that I had thought might be another Paulownia.
How did I not notice the label before?
The name Catalpa × erubescens covers hybrids grown from a cross between the American southern catalpa, C bignonioides, and the Chinese C ovata. The best-known hybrid was raised by J C Teas at Bayville, Indiana, USA around 1874. The unfolding leaves are apparently purplish, broad-ovate or slightly three-lobed, cordate, up to a foot long, downy underneath, but I haven’t noticed that.
In Britain it does not flower as well as C bignonioides but does have big leaves. It allegedly flowers in late July and August but I must have missed that this year as there is no sign of flower or pod. There is more about the hybrid on this link.
The word “catalpa” is from the native American Muscogee name kutuhlpa, meaning “winged head” and the alternative name of Indian bean tree is because of the long bean-shaped pods. I saw none on this tree in Bute Park.
But at last I find on Wikipedia that someone else has also noticed the similarity between the leaves of the Catalpa and Paulownia. It’s mentioned in the article on the hybrid’s mother tree, Catalpa ovata.
So they are really very different trees. The closest they get to being relatives is that they are both in the “order” Lamiales, which links them through their flower shape.
It’s a huge group, but includes many plants you might think have similar flowers – lavender, lilac, jasmine, snapdragon, sage, mint, basil and rosemary. Also in the same order is the foxglove (Digitalis). And you may or may not remember that the empress tree is also commonly called the foxglove tree, so somewhere I think we may have come full circle.
Oh, and I almost forgot – the plant pictured at the top of the post was also labelled – and it’s a Catalpa.