Is this a weed???

Medford_TomJune 22, 2013


Newbie here. This is my first Spring in a new house and we've been doing some new plantings and dealing with what we inherited, which was in certain instances in a rather wild state. This one particular plant in the yard has perplexed several gardening savvy people who have been to the house and seen it. Most feel that it might be an overgrown weed, but no one is sure. Today, I noticed that it seemed to flowering(??) and there was a lot of ant activity in the area where this was taking place, which has me more confused and somewhat alarmed. Any ideas what this thing is?

My apologies if this is the wrong forum for a question like this.


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A "weed" is a plant you do not want growing where you do not want it to grow, so this might be a "weed" or it may not. Keep in mind also that much of what we classify as "weeds" are wildflowers that provide a food source for many of our beneficial insects.
The presence of ants may indicate something or it may not.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 7:23AM
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Thanks for the response. The flowers coming in actually seem quite interesting, so I think i'll wait to see where this goes.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 12:19PM
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Those look like catalpa flowers. Are there any catalpa trees around your neighborhood?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 3:01PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Tom, do you have room for this tree (catalpa) at its eventual size - it used to be thought a pretty tree for larger landscapes but has lost popularity over the years. Reasons being its leaf and twig litter, habit of leafing out fairly late in Spring then dropping its leaves at the first hint of fall frost, and from being somewhat brittle, does not always hold up well to storms.

Do a bit a research then decide while its smaller if its something you want to live with in what appears to be the front of your home. Take note of the flowers and determine if those are appealing enough to make up for some other features that may not be as desirable long term...although understand that I'm speaking from out of your climate :)

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 4:57PM
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Wow, I just googled the Catalpa and the flowers do look identical. No, I don't see any trees in the vicinity of my house, but I'm far from an expert. Perhaps a more careful search is in order.

Thanks so much for that ID. It gives me something to go on moving forward.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 5:22PM
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@ Morz8,
Thanks for the advice. You raise some great questions. This is in the front of my home, and perhaps just as important as the aesthetic concerns is that it's growing only three or four feet from the base of a full grown tree and quite close to my house. It seems like I would have to consider relocating it if I want to keep it long-term, but - as you suggest - more research is in order.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 5:57PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Around here, it would be an empress tree.
Paulownia species.
Seeds around freely, gets huge, weak wood which breaks in the wind.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 1:36AM
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The Catalpas I have allowed to grow around here do not flower that young.
It may be the "Princess" tree, "Paulownia species", considered to be an invasive species.
Have you checked with your UMASS Cooperative Extension Service?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 7:24AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

Definitely the native Catalpa, not invasive Paulownia, from the flowers.

These are often grown to be cut down annually. The caterpillars that use this plant as host are valued as fishing bait, so they are kept shrub-size so people can reach the caterpillars. From that you can know that you can cut it to the ground every year to have a shrub, and that cutting it to the ground won't kill it.

Good luck with whatever decision you make!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 12:02PM
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@ purpleinopp,

Thanks for that information. Good to know.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 11:39PM
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