Catalpa Trees

July 10, 2018

For years, 2 huge Catalpa trees with their large heart-shaped leaves and popcorn-like clusters of flowers were prominent features in the yard of Jacksonville’s historic Beekman House Museum at 470 E. California Street. These quick-growing trees were popular plantings in pioneer settlements throughout the West. Also known as the Indian bean tree, the Catalpa was valued for its medicinal uses. Tea brewed from its bark was used as an antiseptic to treat snake bites and whooping cough. A light sedative could be made from the flowers and seed pods, and the flowers were used for treating asthma. The leaves could also be turned into a poultice for treating wounds. However, the leaves may have served an even more valued purpose. Prior to the days of indoor plumbing, the large, soft Catalpa leaves may have been a welcome alternative to the Sears Roebuck catalog….
You can appreciate the remaining 100-year-old Catalpa tree when you tour the 1873 Beekman House any Saturday this summer – although public restrooms have now replaced the 2-seater outhouse which you can still see in the backyard!