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JOPLIN, Mo. — If you’re looking to plant new trees this spring, there’s one unique tree with many benefits, which the Missouri University Extension office in Jasper County suggests you consider.

This particular tree is called a Catalpa, but you may know it by another name: A bean tree, because of their long bean seed pods.

“Most of the Catalpa trees you see in Missouri are Northern Catalpa. They grow taller, are more narrow, and have larger leaves than the Southern Catalpa. The Southern Catalpa is a different species — it is a more rounded tree, and a little smaller in stature than the Northern Catalpa,” said Robert Balek, Horticulture Specialist from the University of Missouri Extension office.

Balek says there are many benefits to having one or more Catalpa trees around. The wood itself is considered to be resistant to decay, and good for outdoor projects and carvings. It’s often used for fence posts because the trees are drought-tolerant, wind-tolerant, heat-tolerant, and cold-tolerant. As for shade, the Catalpa tree’s large leaves offer plenty of it.

“They’re very tolerant of many soil types and weather conditions. They grow relatively fast and they have relatively hard wood which does not break apart in storms as easily as other fast-growing trees,” says Balek.

SLIDESHOW: View Photos of Catalpa Trees

Unlike many native trees, the Catalpa is relatively insect free, with the exception of Catalpa worms. Thankfully, the worms are a native species with several natural enemies, so pest control is not usually needed. However, avid fishers may consider plucking those worms off themselves…

“There is a Catalpa worm. It’s a small caterpillar that can be found on the tree in summertime, which I am told is excellent bass bait,” said Balek. Written references to Catalpa worms as prized fishing bait date back to the late 1800s, and fishermen from that time period likely planted the trees to have a steady source of bait.

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The trees flower in mid-to-late May and attract several species that seek out nectar.

“The trees have a beautiful panicle of flowers. Those flower clusters attract hummingbirds, moths, butterflies — basically all kinds of nectar-loving insects. It’s a good tree to have for pollinators,” said Balek.

However, the trees do have a downside: The bean pods (which the trees are known for) often fall off and collect on the ground, causing a nuisance when it comes to mowing.

“They were very popular in tree farms and nursery business back in the 1930s and 1940s. A lot of the older houses would have them, but they’re not so easily found on the market these days,” said Balek.

You can learn more about Northern Catalpa trees from the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website, located HERE.