Friday, August 7, 2009

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine

I drive by this little plant thriving in a tiny asphalt diamond in the middle of a busy street, in a fairly industrial part, of Portland and I can’t help but hear this song that we sung in Vacation Bible School when I was a kid…
“This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm gonna let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine.
Don't let Satan blow it out, I'm gonna let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine.
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine.
Shine all over [name of town], I'm gonna let it shine. Shine all over [name of town]
I'm gonna let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine.”

You get the idea. It goes on and on. I don’t know why exactly that I hear that song but I do. It’s like this little guy is just out there being all green and healthy and saying to the world “NO! You are not going to keep me down! You go ahead and you drown me in your carbon emissions and your stinky exhaust…I don’t care! I am going to SHINE! Don’t bother watering me, I’ve got HUGE leaves but I can make it on what ever water comes my way…I am going to SHINE!”…and it does shine. My pictures don’t do it justice; it’s an amazing little oasis in the asphalt. I was unwilling to stop traffic to get the money shot; instead I played it safe on the sidewalk. You’ll have to use your imagination to envision how beautiful it is when you’re driving down the street and see it backlit by the morning sun.

Same plant, another location.
This one is monster-sized and behind chain link. It does not have to endure quite the extreme circumstances but has not received a drop of supplemental water during our heat wave. And yet it still looks fabulous. Its light is also shining bright. I believe both are Catalpa bignonioides? Please correct me if I am wrong, this is one of those elusive ones that I’ve admired and identified multiple times and never remember the name of. Thanks to Grace and her post on July 26th I think I’ve got the name down, finally!


  1. Just gives you hope for the animal and vegetable world, doesn't it? (And I know a few people whose lights could use a lesson from that big little Catalpa, too.) What a fun and positive post!

  2. Oh thanks, now I will have that song on endless loop in my brain for the next 24 hrs! Didn't go to VBS but just overheard someone talking about her daughter's recent experience in one, and she mentioned that song! Must be a perennial fav.

    Wow, that is one determined plant! Cool that it grows so big without any help from anyone. Is it invasive or just content to stay in one place and grow like crazy? Nice that you appreciate it! Hope others do too.

  3. Hello, Danger Garden. Backlighting is beautiful. So is noticing it in unlikely places.
    Wondering if the second set of photos is of the lot off NE Freemont? I didn't notice the big leafed plant. What I see is all the buddleias that are spreading wildly. Some plants shouldn't be allowed to shine so brightly......

  4. I always thought that plant/tree was something that starts with a "P." And though I once knew the rest of the letters, they escape me now. I could be wrong. Hope this helps.

  5. That's an Empress Tree - Paulownia tomentosa. It's in the same family as the Catalpa. It definately lets its light shine in the most brutal locations. There's one near me growing in a crack in the sidewalk - thought it was a goner after last winter - now it's back about 3' tall - last year it was 15' tall! They look cool and tropical but shouldn't be left to reseed.

  6. Cousin to a Triffid? I have heard some horror stories about Empress Trees, but Pistils had some very tempting Golden Catalpas (aren't golden versions of things usually less vigorous?). Something very similar looking is growing along our roadside...kept shrubby by the diligent road crews' whacking.
    Whatever...hard not to just appreciate anything so pretty with such a will to live.

  7. Thank goodness for My Garden Coach. I was trying to look up the Paulowina, but didn't remember how to spell it. That's what I was thinking too. They're one of those beautiful but scary trees. If they promise to be well behaved, I'd like to have one.

  8. Thanks Jane!

    Karen, sorry about the song, it happened to me too. I think that it must be invasive, but now that I know the name for sure (see below), I will do some research!

    Patrick, it's in the lot on Broadway at 33rd, right by I-84. So far as I've seen there are no buddleias there but I do know what lot on Fremont you are referring to...scary!

    Patricia, thank you - you certainly got the ball rolling and in fact you triggered a tiny hint of name memory which My Garden Coach finished off.

    MGC, thank you! You called it! and tropical...maybe this is the perfect plant for my front yard! Except there is that whole invasive thing...

    Megan, How exactly do I go about getting it to promise? Cause I'd love to have one!


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Comment moderation is on (because you know: spam), I will approve and post your comment as soon as possible!