Yesterday, ever-so-close to home, the car in front of me slowed to a stop–in the middle of the street. A passenger rolled out of the car, meandered over to our neighbor’s tree, and began smelling its blossoms. “What in the world?” No sooner had the words escaped my lips than the driver drove on, up ahead, around the corner. I followed suit, pulling into my driveway; the driver backed up to the spot from whence she came, picked up the passenger, and turned the corner once again.
That’s when I heard it: “Excuse me! Do you know the name of that tree?”
Why yes I do.
Not that I’m an expert on our wooded friends, mind you. As a matter of fact, the Catalpa is pretty much the only tree I can identify with great authority. You see, we go way back, the Catalpa and I. Of all the trees in the world, few hold more magic for a child. Not only is their massive presence a welcome reprieve from the summer sun, nothing beats swinging from their branches. Their long bean pods make the perfect main dish–or sword, depending on the imaginary world in which you reside. And their large, hard shaped leaves? Well, they make splendid party hats.
Of course, once the lady in the car mentioned the tree’s popularity in my neighborhood, I began to wonder its allure for adults. So I did the only to do: I hurried inside to consult with Google.
Did you know?
- Catalpas are not only fast growing, they’re tough fellows; they can grow in compact soil with poor drainage (check and check).
- Not not only that, but they tend to balance the soil. They’re often brought in to stabilize areas prone to landslides; they’re also employed to heal land that’s been mined.
- They do attract catalpa “worms” (or sphinx moth larvae, if you want to get technical)–but even they make for great fish bait. As a matter of fact, people have been known to grow the trees simply to harvest the bait.
- That’s not all. Oh no, it’s not. Down through the years, people have viewed the Catalpa as medicinal: it’s been used as an antidote for snake bites; as a poultice for wounds; as a sedative; as treatment for asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, and malaria.
- It’s also lovely. The wood of the catalpa is lightweight and smooth as silk, popular for turning (or carving, as it were).
Hooray for obscure, random facts!
Also, it’s a good reminder: just because you think you know something, doesn’t mean you truly do.
With that, I pray this weekend finds you well. And much like the great Catalpa, may you help a little, grow a lot, and build your loveliness from the inside, out.