I spent a recent frosty weekend in Bath County when night time temperatures dipped to the 20’s for the first time. As I stepped out for my morning reconnoiter, I heard a rushing sound, almost a clattering. It was far too loud and close to be the riffles of the Cowpasture River that pools at the front of the cabin. The source of the sound was glowing in the first sunbeams at the base of a steep ridge: a large catalpa tree (Catalpa speciosa, commonly known as the northern catalpa). The caterpillars that visit this tree are highly prized for fishing bait, hence its home by our favorite fishing hole. The ornamental tree is naturalized to Virginia, not native but too slow growing to be considered invasive. To learn more see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalpa_speciosa .
The catalpa’s salad-plate-sized green leaves were clattering to the ground. They had frozen in the overnight chill and without any apparent preparation, released from the tree in unison. In the space of 90 minutes, the full grown tree was bare.
I was amazed at the process and it made me appreciate even more our native hard woods that have evolved a complex and beautiful deciduous process that gives the trees (and us) a little more time to adjust to the thought of the winter ahead.
Here are some before, during and after photos.