Lagerstroemia indica

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Lagerstroemia indica
Lagerstroemia indica MHNT Jardin des Plantes de Toulouse.jpg
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Myrtales
Family: Lythraceae
Genus: Lagerstroemia
Species: L. indica
Binomial name
Lagerstroemia indica
(L.) Pers.
A close view of the crape myrtle flower
Lagerstroemia indicaMuséum de Toulouse

Lagerstroemia indica (crape myrtle, crepe myrtle, crepeflower[1]) is a species in the genus Lagerstroemia in the family Lythraceae.

From China, Korea, Japan and Indian Subcontinent Lagerstroemia indica is an often multi-stemmed, deciduous tree with a wide spreading, flat topped, rounded, or even spike shaped open habit. Planted in full sun or under canopy, the tree is a popular nesting shrub for songbirds and wrens.

Crepe myrtle (দেশি ফুরুস), Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Autumn foliage
Crape myrtle blooming near the United States Capitol

The bark is a prominent feature being smooth, pinkish-gray and mottled, shedding each year. Leaves also shed each winter, after spectacular color display, and bare branches re-leaf early in the spring; leaves are small, smooth-edged, circular or oval-shaped, and dark green changing to yellow and orange and red in autumn.

Flowers, on different trees, are white, pink, mauve, purple or carmine with crimped petals, in panicles up to 9 centimetres (3 12 in).

Lagerstroemia indica is frost tolerant, prefers full sun and will grow to 6 metres (20 ft) with a spread of 6 metres (20 ft). The plant is not picky about soil type but does require good drainage to thrive. Once established it is also quite drought hardy, though it benefits from the occasional deep watering during the summer months.[2]

15 hybrid cultivars have been developed between L. indica and L. faueri by the US National Arboretum for increased cold-hardiness and resistance to disease, all given the names of Native American tribes.[3] There are also dwarf cultivars of indica x faueri cross-breeds and regular L. indica species, which grow between 2 and 5 feet (1.5 meters).[4]

Cultivation[edit]

In the United States, Lagerstroemia indica is a very popular flowering shrub/small tree in mild-winter states (USDA Zones 7-10). Low maintenance needs make it a common municipal planting in parks, along sidewalks, highway medians and in parking lots. Like the Southern Magnolia, the Crape Myrtle has come to symbolize the American South because of its extensive planting and ability to thrive in hot, humid summer climates with regular precipitation.[5] It is one of only a few trees/shrubs to offer brilliant color in late summer through autumn, at a time when many flowering plants have exhausted their blooms. Lagerstroemia is a common planting in South Atlantic States and is becoming an increasingly common shrub in Mid-Atlantic states all the way up through the coastal areas of Massachusetts.[6] Lagerstroemia also thrives in the Mediterranean and Desert climates of Southern California, Arizona and Nevada.[7] In arid climates, it requires supplemental watering and some shade in the very hottest areas.

During the winter, gardeners will often lop off the branches of large specimens, to manage size and encourage more profuse summer bloom. This is colloquially known as "Crape Murder" because of the drastic pruning involved, leaving a bare trunk during the winter and early spring.[8] The plant must have hot summers in order to flower successfully, otherwise it will show weak bloom and is more vulnerable to fungal diseases.[9]

Gardeners in cold-winter states have also had success with newer cross-breeds, especially those between L. indica and L. faueri, which offer increased winter hardiness. Frequently L. indica is root hardy to Zone 5 (-10 °F/-23 °C), meaning it will be killed back during harsh winters but regrow from the roots and flower in summer. As such Northern gardeners treat it more like a perennial than a tree or shrub. The U.S. National Arboretum has developed cold-hardy varieties that can withstand Zone 6 winters, though they may die back during bad cold snaps. Too much watering and over-fertilizing can decrease the cold hardiness of L. indica because it stimulates new growth late in the season that does not have time to harden off.[10]

The "Dynamite" cultivar the crepe myrtle

Diseases[edit]

In the South mildew and fungal diseases have traditionally been a problem for L. indica. This was a major motivation for developing the L. indica x L. faueri hybrids, which show increased resistance to powdery mildew and fungus. The fungal pathogen Cercospora lythracearum can infest the plant in summer during hot, rainy weather and cause premature leaf drop. Planting a resistant hybrid or spraying with a fungicide can help control this.[11]

Insect problems with Lagestroemia indica include the Crape Myrtle Aphid, Tinocallis kahawaluokalani, which can cause yellow spots and black mold, Japanese beetles, and the flea beetle. None of these insects are fatal to the plant and infestations usually resolve themselves through other predator insects; however applications of insecticidal soap can also be helpful.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ USDA GRIN Taxonomy, retrieved 8 June 2016 
  2. ^ Kathleen Norris Brenzel (ed.) (2007). Sunset Western Garden Book. p. 430. 
  3. ^ Kathleen Norris Brenzel (ed.) (2007). Sunset Western Garden Book. p. 430. 
  4. ^ Adrian Higgins (2015-03-18). "How to choose the right crape myrtle". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-06-01. 
  5. ^ Steve Bender. "History of Crape Myrtles in the South". Southern Living. Retrieved 2017-05-31. 
  6. ^ Hilary Newell (2012-09-13). "Crape Myrtle - A Great Late Season Shrub". Nantucket Chronicle. Retrieved 2017-12-11. 
  7. ^ Barbara Kishbaugh (September 1993). "Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia Indica)". Cochise Co. Master Gardeners. Retrieved 2017-05-31. 
  8. ^ Adrian Higgins (2015-03-08). "How to avoid hacking at your crape myrtle this spring". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-05-31. 
  9. ^ Kathleen Norris Brenzel (ed.) (2007). Sunset Western Garden Book. p. 430. 
  10. ^ Kathleen Norris Brenzel (ed.) (2007). Sunset Western Garden Book. p. 430. 
  11. ^ "Crape Myrtle Questions & Answers - US National Arboretum - USDA". 2004-10-14. Retrieved 2017-05-31. 
  12. ^ "Crape Myrtle Questions & Answers - US National Arboretum - USDA". 2004-10-14. Retrieved 2017-05-31. 
  • Flora, The Gardeners Bible, ABC Publishing, Ultimo, NSW, Australia, 2005