Still time to enter city’s Big Tree contest

Contest looking for largest Northern Catalpa

Staff photos by Clay Schuldt The white flowers on the Northern Catalpa (above) are in full bloom, making identification easy.

NEW ULM — The Northern Catalpa tree is known for its large bell-shaped white flowers and uneven or oval-shaped crown of branches. Whoever can find and identify the largest specimen in New Ulm by July 1 will win the annual New Ulm Big Tree Contest.

This is the 11th year the New Ulm Tree Advisory Commission has hosted the contest. In past years New Ulm residents were asked to find the largest; ash, oak, maple, hackberry, elm, linden, cottonwood, walnut, locust or willow tree.

The Northern Catalpa tree is typically found in the forests of southern Illinois and Indiana to western Tennessee and Arkansas but does grow in Minnesota. The tree goes by other names, including cigar tree, caterpillar tree, and western catalpa.

The tree’s seeds grow in bean-like pods that are eight to twenty inches long. The pods start green before turning brown and are the source of the cigar tree and caterpillar tree nicknames.

The leaves are up to 12 inches in length and four to eight inches wide. They are somewhat heart or spear-shaped. The tree’s bark is thick, reddish brown, with scaly, longitudinal ridges.

This example of a Northern Catalpa tree at right is located on Northern State Street, but whether it is the largest in town is unknown.

The tree’s white flowers are is the easiest feature to identify; however few of the New Ulm catalpas were in bloom until recently.

Big Tree Contest entrants must fill out the contest form and return it to the New Ulm Recreation Center by 6 p.m. Monday, July 1. All trees entered will be measured by a member of the New Ulm Tree Advisory Commission. Size is determined by circumference. Each tree is measured at a height of four and a half feet above the tree. If the tree has multiple stems, only one stem counts.

Eligible trees can be located on private or public property. If on private property, the applicant and the commission must have permission to enter the property to measure the tree.

If multiple entries are received for the winning tree, the owner’s entry takes precedence, then entries by date received.

The winner can select the species of tree to plant, from the City of New Ulm approved species list, to be procured (and planted if desired) from a City designated New Ulm nursery. The New Ulm Tree Advisory Commission will reimburse payment for the tree (and planting if desired) up to a maximum of $200.

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