Rare specimen named city's Tree of Year

Arare podless catalpa has been named Ashland's 2010 Tree of the Year.

The tree at 200 Sherman St. is a cloned cross between two types of catalpa trees. Catalpas are native to the southern United States, but are occasionally seen in the Northwest.

"It's the only one I know of in Ashland. It's the only one I've ever seen," said Ashland Tree Commissioner Tom Myers, the former owner of Upper Limb-It Tree Service.

Some people say there may be no other podless catalpas on the West Coast, but that has not been documented, he said.

Because the tree lacks seed pods, it must be cloned to propagate, said Myers, who hopes to propagate the tree himself.

A podless catalpa was reported to be growing on the grounds of a Seattle school in the mid-1990s, but the tree was cut down before it could be propagated.

Catalpas have large leaves that provide dense shade. The trees produce showy flowers that look somewhat like orchids.

The podless catalpa in Ashland garnered 61 of 83 votes cast in the 2010 Tree of the Year contest.

The tree beat out a weeping Brewer's spruce, a canyon live oak, a ponderosa pine and a cork oak.

Myers said the annual Tree of the Year contest — now in its 23rd year — brings attention to all the beautiful trees around Ashland.

"Everyone tends to take them for granted after a while," he said.

In 2003, Ashland shifted its Tree of the Year contest to the fall to better recognize trees that have attractive autumn foliage.

This spring, during annual Arbor Week events, the Ashland Tree Commission will dedicate a plaque honoring the podless catalpa.

Reach Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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