Random Memory: The time the catalpa watered me

Catalpa in late summer showing the beanpods
Catalpa in late summer showing the bean pods

I grew up on a street lined with mature catalpa trees. These trees, if you don’t know them by name, you probably know them by sight. They are the trees with large heart-shaped leaves that produce huge white flowers in the spring and long green bean-shaped seed pods in the fall. I used to tell people that Heine Avenue should have been called Catalpa Street.

velvet leaf weed
Velvet Leaf in tomato garden

One afternoon I stood under our yard’s catalpa tree admiring what I suspected was a baby catalpa. It had large heart-shaped leaves, just like the tree above me. I wanted it to grow so I ran into the house, filled a pot with water and ran back to the front yard and poured the water over the baby catalpa tree. Just as my pot of water sprinkled the last drop on the baby catalpa tree I felt drops of water on my head, then more, then what seemed like buckets of water fell on my head. My first thought was that the mother catalpa tree was watering me, but then I suspected she was trying to drown me because I poured water on her child. As I ran into the house I realized that the water was just a sudden rainstorm.

Years later I discovered that what I thought was a baby catalpa was actually a velvetleaf — a weed which, according to the Internet, was introduced in the U. S. as a possible fiber plant. I see them now and then when I’m in nature — I saw a lot in Illinois the last couple of weeks. Yesterday I saw one — 6+ foot one — in my tomato garden. Which is why you are reading this now.

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