Thursday, June 9, 2011

Catalpa Memories

My honey bees have been flying southeast high into sky. I wondered where they might be foraging for nectar and pollen since not much is blooming nectar-wise for them. As I drove down our road, I noticed several Catalpa trees blooming. When I stopped to inspect, I heard the familiar sound of pollinators. While I only saw a few bumble and carpenter bees on the lower branches, I was sure honey bees were at the top of the tree. These trees are located about a half-mile in a straight beeline southeast of my bee hives.

Common Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides)

For years I have driven by these trees and not paid much attention to them. I am glad my bees make me notice these and other flowers. These trees are not native to this area, originating in the Gulf Coast of the United States. The trees were probably planted as fence posts (Trees and Shrubs, Peterson Field Guide). The guide also states that they produce "catawba worms" that fishermen use as bait.

As I photographed the tree and flowers, memories of my childhood came back to me. A large Catalpa tree grew along the fence of our front yard where I grew up in a town outside St. Louis, Missouri (now a suburb). My sisters and I would put the Catalpa flowers in our hair. Later when the large seed pods appeared, we sat in a circle under the tree and tried to smoke the "cigars" or long seed pods.

On another note, I photographed these flowers this morning and am wondering what they are. The bell-shaped flowers are about an inch or so long and quite showy.

Purple Clematis (Clematis Verticillaris)

They are growing on a vine with three leaflets with simple leaves. Does anyone know what this vine is?

Mystery solved by Randy: It's Purple Clematis, a native vine that is in the buttercup family. My Peterson guide pictures the flower a little differently--no curls on the end of the sepals so I guess that's why I missed it. Anyway, I am glad to have another native plant and it's close to the area where I discovered the orchid this spring.


  1. Maybe swamp clematis.

  2. Yes that plant is a native clematis. We keep bees also, my hive is just 3 1/2 weeks old, looking forward to the new brood any day now.

  3. Randy and Anonymous--thanks for the id. The Petersen's guide says its purple clematis and native.

    Randy--you will enjoy being a beekeeper. They help you see nature in a whole new way.

  4. Great post of woodland beauty!

    Thank you, for sharing!

  5. We used to have a catalpa tree, but the flowers were more yellow. I loved it for two weeks a year, but it was the messiest tree that I have ever seen - even worse than mimosa! - so I was not sad when the utility folks told me it was encroaching on the line easement. But, am delighted that your bees like it.

    I have had a zillion - not an actual count - bees in my hyssop and white salvia. My whole attitude to bees has changed since reading your blog! bees are my friends now.

  6. ...I have a special place in my heart for Catalpa Trees too. My grandparents had two huge Catalpas in their front yard. I remember my grandpa telling me about them...and the hanging seed pods... I love those trees!

  7. I love how you wonder were your honey bees are getting the sweet stuff! I always wondered that do they know where to go? When do they start "smelling" it? If only we can tag one little guy with a microscopic camera and observe him the whole day! Wow! That would be awesome.

  8. Beautiful flowers! And glad to know that your bees are doing well.

  9. Lovely tree - don't think I have seen one. I would never have guessed what the flower was.

  10. Hi,

    I only found my queen after the second inspection of the photos I took of most of the frames in the hive. Yes unmarked is hard to see, we had 3 pairs of eyes looking for her and did not see her. Loved the catalpa blooms. Saw our bees on potato flowers this morning.