This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
At this time there seems to be quite a" boom" in the Catalpa tree. In current literature on the subject the impression seems to prevail that Catalpa wood placed in the ground for posts, etc, is practically indestructible, so far as decay is concerned. Notably, in your July issue you quote from the Boston Herald an article on tree planting, in which the statement is made that catalpa wood " although soft, is almost indestructible when placed in the ground." The fact is, catalpa is by no means indestructible. Posts of it frequently decay in ten or twelve years, and at the same time they frequently last double that time, or longer. This county (Henderson, Ky.), is situated in a scope of country where the catalpa tree is indigenous, and abounds in some considerable quantity. The country was settled about eighty years ago, and from the best information the wood has been used since the county's settlement, and as a consequence information derived from this section is entitled to weight.
My attention during the last few months was particularly called to the subject. The information obtained was in general that catalpa was esteemed for posts, though not so much so as red cedar, locust or mulberry; that there was great difference in its lasting qualities, ranging from say, ten to twenty-five years. Many farmers here say there is a yellow and a white catalpa; that the former is very durable, and the latter not durable. It appears from investigation that what is called the yellow is a mature tree, or a tree growing very slowly, and the white a tree in thrifty growth, and consequently with more sap wood; hence it would seem that the only difference lies in different conditions of growth. Investigation does not seem to decide, however, that the mature tree is more durable-than the younger.
I do not undertake to account for the difference in durability of catalpa, but mention it simply as a fact. It is true that those who contemplate extensive planting should have all accurate information.