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Chitalpa? New flowering tree from the U.S.S.R.

A new deciduous tree from the Soviet Union, the chitalpa, holds promise for all but the West's coldest climates. This cross between two North American native trees offers many advantages.

It doesn't need much water The chitalpa

isn't damaged by summer water but can stand up to extended drought, as well as to dry winds.

Plenty of flowers over a long time. They start in May or June and appear continuously through fall, a much longer flowering period than that of either parent.

They're very effective up close, though their small size and pale color limit their impact from a distance.

Grows fast but doesn't get too big. Started from a cutting six years ago, the tree in the picture at left above is now about 15 feet tall and equally wide. Its dimensions are expected to double by maturity.

Pests? Few. In five years of minimum maintenance, aphids have occasionally been observed on the tree at Rancho Santa Ana, but no insect, mite, or disease damage has been detected.

Add to all that, the chitalpa is widely adapted. At 0 degrees, leaves and stems suffer damage, but the plant will come back quickly from surviving roots.

From here to there and back again

The chitalpa is a cross between Catalpa bignonioides from the Southeast and Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) from the Southwest. The cross was made in Tashkent, U.S.S.R., by A. Russanov of the Botanical Garden of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences. A 1977 expedition from New York's Cary Arboretum brought cuttings back to the United States.

In looks, chitalpa leans mostly to the Chilopsis side. Its glossy, bright green leaves are about 1 inch wide and 4 inches long. The abundant flowers show the catalpa influence. Leaf litter is minimal; the leaves drop all at once, in late autumn. Most cleanup is required in summer, when flowers fall.

The tree naturally grows small and multitrunked. But with early shaping and pruning, you could produce a single-trunked specimen branching at four to six feet.

Current availability of container plants is good. If your nursery doesn't stock this tree, ask to have one ordered from Monrovia Nursery Company, a wholesale grower, Gallon-size plants cost about $6, 5gallon ones about $20.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Sep 1, 1988
Words:373
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