Rpt Missouri State Hort. Soc. 1880-1881 pp. 76-78
TEAS’ HYBRID CATALPA
John C. Teas, Carthage, Missouri

*Kaempferi

About the year 1864, having already growing all the varieties of catalpa then known to cultivation, viz., the common, the Speciosa, the Bungei and the Koempferi,* I procured from an Eastern nursery a tree under the name of Japan catalpa. Before I had become well acquainted with this tree, I left my old home in Indiana and came to Jasper county, Mo., where I have since lived, and did not again see the tree for ten years. Two or three years after leaving the old place, I sent back for catalpa seeds, which were sent me without names. Among the plants grown from these seeds were a few (perhaps the product of a single pod) quite unlike any catalpa I knew, and showing so many points of interest that I watched them with especial care, satisfied they were from my Japan tree. Being unable to identify it with descriptions within my reach, I sent samples of the flowers, leaves, seeds, etc., to eminent botanists and others skilled in trees, in different parts of the country, and also tried to trace up the source from which the original tree had come. But nobody knew it. The botanists were unable to give me any assistance, and the efforts to trace the origin of my Japan tree only showed that it was grown from seed imported from Japan without name other than catalpa.

I have since visited my old place, and a careful examination of the original tree there proved, to my surprise, that it is nothing more nor less than the species common in Japan, and called by some botanists Bungei, and by others Koempferi, and quite unlike the seedlings I have grown from it. There could be but one solution of the difficulty, and that is, that the flowers of this tree have been fertilized by those of the Speciosa, which grew not far from it—and thus was produced, by natural hybridization, this new variety. This idea of hybridization had before been suggested to me by Robert Douglas and others as possible, but I felt reluctant to accept the theory, until after I had examined the old tree.

The characteristics of the new variety are very marked, and partake largely of those of both its parents. In its vigorous, upright growth, it even surpasses either. In its foliage—large, luxuriant, and often, though not always, lobed, something like a maple or tulip poplar leaf—we plainly see the Japan influence in its parentage, while the American is unmistakably shown in the profusion of its large and handsome white flowers. The seed pods and seeds are very distinct, and are intermediate between those of Speciosa, which are the largest of all, and Bungei, which are the smallest. It is the most profuse bloomer of all the catalpas, being literally loaded with flowers and remaining in bloom several weeks—a much longer period than other catalpas. The individual flowers are the size of those of the common, not so large as Speciosa, but this is more than made up by their greater abundance. They are white, with small, purple dots, and a touch of yellow around the throat, which last is a mark from the Japan side. The flowers are borne in clusters of extraordinary size, sometimes numbering as high as three and even four hundred buds and blooms in one great panicle. They do not all open at once, but keep, up a succession of bloom for a long time. The flowers have a very pleasant and delicate fragrance, and a tree in bloom not only presents a magnificent spectacle to the eye, but also fills the air for quite a distance with its agreeable odor.

The past spring (1880) I sent Prof. George Husmann, at the Missouri State University, one thousand very small trees—culls out of the one year-olds—many of them no larger than small straws. They were set in nursery rows late in May, and though it was a dry and unfavorable season, they made a surprising growth, many of them reaching a height of six feet or more, and from one to one and a half inches in diameter, and straight as young Lombardy poplars. I also sent a dozen larger trees of the same, which were delayed on the way, and he wrote me were as dry as sticks when received, and he thought ruined. However, he planted them, and every one not only lived, but made a good growth. Some years ago I sent him scions of this catalpa, which he grafted upon the common, and they made a wonderful growth,. some of the leaves reaching the enormous size of eighteen inches across.

Small trees planted in village lots grew without cultivation, in five years, to be twenty-five feet high, and twenty-four inches in circumference at one foot from the ground; and I measured one shoot in the top of one of these trees which had grown eight feet in a single season. We have grown many thousands of these seedlings, and it seems like being a well-established variety, though, of course, there are slight variations among the seedlings.

We believe this Japanese hybrid is destined, when known, to take a prominent place in the very front rank of trees for timber as well as. ornamental plantations. In rapidity of growth it rivals the most luxuriant trees of temperate climates, while its hardiness has been demonstrated by its standing uninjured with the thermometer at 20°, and even more, below zero.

In the discussion which followed, Prof. Husmann said: I fully endorse all that Mr. Teas has said, and think this by far the best of all the Catalpas. With me it has out-grown any other tree, and I think it ought to be one of the varieties planted by every forester. It is quite distinct from Catalpa Speciosa.

After some discussion as to its botanical characters, on motion of Mr. Van Deman, it was named "Teas’ Catalpa."


Journal of Heredity 11: 16-24 (1920)
Teas' Hybrid Catalpa
An Illustration of the Greater Vigor of Hybrids; Increased Growth and Hardiness as a Result of Crossing; Illustrating Definite Principles of Heredity
D. F. Jones, W. O. Filley