Saturday, May 31, 2008


An American Indian tribe that lived in the South Carolina area, known as the Catawba (keto’be), gave this tree the name Catalpa (pronounced ketal'pe). It is said that the Indians smoked the bean pods for a hallucinogenic effect, so the tree became known as the "Indian Cigar Tree", the Indian bean, and smoking bean, some folks even refer to it as the “fish bait tree!”

Here in my neck of the woods this beautiful flowering tree is called the “CATAWBA!” We say “Ka Ta Ba” like it ought to be!

PaulSqueaky” Goddard, his grandpa, and I used to go fishing at the Kingston Steam Plant using the Catalpa/Catawba worms that hatch from eggs left by the catalpa sphinx moth. The moth larva devours the leaves of the tree (the Catalpa is preferred) and often completely strips it of leaves which readily grow back. The tough skinned caterpillar is hard to push a hook through, and you have to push it through at least twice to get it to stay on the hook long enough to catch a crappie! If you leave too much hanging down, the fish will steal the worm bit by bit until your hook is bare!

Squeaky even kept some frozen in his freezer, by placing them in cornmeal or sawdust, packing them in a glass jar, and freezing them immediately. He often used them throughout the winter months.

In the original 35mm slide of Mr. Goddard, you could read the name of the reel clearly on the side. This scanned copy is a touch blurry, but you might be able to guess the manufacturer* anyway. Always thought I should have sent that slide to them!

The tree’s lovely flower can be seen in late May and early June. After that, the flowers are replaced by a long bean pod (cigar shaped pod in a cluster). This tree is in Harriman, Tennessee on Hwy. 29, in front of Bowers Elementary School and across from South Harriman Baptist Church.

The wood of the Catawba was widely used in the South for fence posts.

*Johnson Century Model 100B


BRUNO said...

Around 40 years ago, we used to have one growing on my parents' farm. But it just up and died-off, for no real reason---never had much problem with the worms, either.

I imagine southeast Missouri was just a little bit too far north, for what it was accustomed to.

(I always stuck to smokin' grapevines---at least 'til the piss-ants come runnin' out from the heat! A good stand of dried Kentucky 301 Bluegrass made a nice "roll-ur-own", too...!)

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Beautiful shots man. Beautiful flowers. I've got somethin' here that I plant every year. It grows in a vine and the flowers. when the flowers run their course the stem turns into a seed pod to grow the seed for the next planting. Just planted some today. I'll post pictures when they bloom. Originally got them from a neighbor of my folks in Temple who had it growing on a fence.

Oh, and I never tried to smoke it. Damn Bruno. Couldn't you get weed?

BRUNO said...

JEFF: Well, yeah, later! Hell, I was only around 13 or so at the time---I was lucky to get five bucks a WEEK then! But once I hit 18, and "Step-One" of adulthood, I had PLENTY of cash for a nickel bag...!

Huh. Maybe I should've saved that for MY blog...???

Anonymous said...

I grew up in SE Ohio, as a boy I called them catably, catalpa now.
I would climb the trees for the beans, I never knew they could by smoked, and the worms, for some reason we all said they would sting us, but they did make good bait.

pat houseworth said...

Mushy, we have a Catawba in Ohio, an island, up on Lake Erie.....been fishing there many a time in years past.

Not sure what the History of the name is me something else to look up on the internet.

Suldog said...

So, you can smoke those things? Damn. Another opportunity missed...

Editor said...

and do you know where the worlds largest catawba tree is?
my hometown, Water Valley, MS