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What tree is flowering this week?

NORTHERN CATALPA (Catalpa speciosa) is a tree that is not native to Delaware, but can be found throughout the state. Catalpa is easy to identify, especially right now when the trees are full of large clusters of beautiful, white blossoms.

Catalpa trees - Deep Grass Road just south of Houston, DE

Large Catalpa tree - Church Street. in Felton, DE

Another identifying feature are the very large, heart-shaped leaves, also found on the paulonia (Paulownia tomentosa) which is sometimes known as the empress tree. The difference that’s easy to see are the blossoms; long-lasting white blossoms on the catalpa and short-lived lavender blossoms on the paulownia.

Catalpa leaves - 6"-8" across
Beautiful Catalpa blossoms
Catalpa blossoms - side view

The wood of the catalpa is light in weight, but is surprisingly durable. For this reason, catalpa has often been used for fence posts, and this may account for its wide distribution. Another popular use is for carving, especially if the work is intended to be displayed outdoors.

Two native Milkweeds

In bloom right now in the meadow across the road from the Abbott's Mill Nature Center are dozens of bright orange Butterfly Weeds (Asclepias tuberosa). Don't let "weeds" fool you into thinking that this plant is undesirable, as it is one of the most beautiful native wild-flowers found in Kent and Sussex counties. And besides being beautiful, butterfly weeds are the required host plants for caterpillars of the monarch butterfly and thus play a critical role in the monarch’s life cycle.

Bumble bee on butterfly weeds


Butterfly Weeds (Asclepias tuberosa)

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) on butterfly weeds

Another native plant that attracks butterflys is the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), a plant that is absolutely necessary for the survival of the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus). If you see some blooming, take a close look and then bend down and have a sniff. What a wonderful smell!

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Common milkweed blossoms

Monarch butterfly laying eggs on a milkweed leaf.

Monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) on a common milkweed at the nature center - Mike Rivera photo

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