Crapemyrtle - The Pink Color Flowers
Crapemyrtle - The Pink Color Flowers

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), the Plant with Crepe Flowers

The Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), which belongs to the family Lythraceae, is a large-growing shrub or small tree with several interesting features, dominated by its long-lasting, rich and attractive summer flowering with pink flowers for the typical species.

For more than four decades it has been the subject of a systematic breeding effort that has yielded as a fruit many varieties, enriching the color palette of the plant with red, white, fuchsia, and purple flowers, while the differences in the shape of the varieties as in size – since dwarf Crapemyrtles are now offered – are a remarkable fact.

The Lagerstroemia indica is today a flowering plant with planetary spread as well as the main object of this article – as the whole editorial team of "Kalliergeia" assures with boldness.

One of the many attractive elements of the plant is its leaves, which, especially in autumn, acquire amazing shades.

Crapemyrtle - The Leaves of Plant - © C. Stubler, M. Ritter, W. Mark and J. Reimer
Crapemyrtle - The Leaves of Plant - © C. Stubler, M. Ritter, W. Mark and J. Reimer
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Crapemyrtle Origin

Map of Crapemyrtle Origin (Lagerstroemia indica)
Lagerstroemia indica (Crapemyrtle) - Map of Origin

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Open Flowers and Flower Buds
Open Flowers and Flower Buds

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) - Brief Description

Family: Lythraceae

Genus: Lagerstroemia

Scientific NameLagerstroemia indica L. Pers.

Common Name: Crapemyrtle, Crape Myrtle, Crepe Myrtle, Crepeflower, Pride of India, Queen Crape Myrtle, Queen of Flowers, Queen of Shrubs, Queen’s Flower

General Characteristics

Leaf Persistence

Deciduous

Form

Shrub or Small Tree

Texture

Medium

Growth Rate

Moderate

Flowering Period (Northern Hemisphere)

June – September

Fruiting Period

Autumn – Winter

Height

8-15 m (26-50 ft)

Diameter

5-8 m (16-26 ft) 

Shapes and Colors

Leaves Shape

Ovate, Obovate

Foliage Colour

Green

Autumn Foliage Colour

Yellow, Redish Orange, Red

Flowers Shape

Tubular with Crepe Petals

Flowers Colour

Pink

Fruit

Brown Berry

Plantation

Soil Type: Excellent drainage, moist, heavy loam to clay

Soil pH: 5-7.5

Watering: Moderate

Exposure: Sun

Hardiness: −17 °C (0 °F – USDA Hardiness zone 7a)

Uses

Specimen, hedges, mixed hedges, urban planting, tree rows, pots and containers

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Blooning Shrub, Credit Famartin - Wikimedia Commons
Crapemyrtle - Blooning Shrub, Credit Famartin - Wikimedia Commons

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) - Etymology

Etymology of the Genus Name

The name of the genus Lagerstroemia is the Neo-Latin version of the Swedish surname Lagerström. Magnus von Lagerström (1696-1759) was a friend of Charles Linnaeus, but also the director of the Swedish East India Company.

Thanks to this position, he was able to supply the great Swedish botanist with numerous new plant species, expanding his systematic scope of study.

Although Lagerström himself never traveled to personally collect new and rare plant species for the then Western World, this did not prevent Charles Linnaeus from giving his friend’s surname to the genus.

Etymology of the Species Name

The name of the species indica, is a Neo-Latin word whose meaning is from India, Indian.

It is probably given by mistake, as either Charles Linnaeus believed that all the plants supplied to him by his friend – hence Lagestremia – came only from the Indian Subcontinent, which is not the case, because in fact they were collected and from other parts of the wider Far East, or that the species originates from India, which is also not the case, as it does not reflect the actual birthplace of the plant.

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) - Origin & Life Span

Origin

Far from India, the roots – metaphorically speaking – of the species are located in China and Korea. From there it spread to many areas of the temperate, tropical and subtropical zone either naturally or thanks to the plant lovers who appreciated the exceptional beauty of the plant and spread it.

The Crapemyrtle in its natural habitats grows in wooded areas and semishaded places, on forest edges, along rivers, in areas of bush vegetation, as well as in grasslands.

It is found in a variety of climatic types, which include both tropical and steppe areas, where the mean annual rainfall is between 1200 to 2400 mm, while the mean annual temperature is between 5 and 28 °C (41-82 °F).

In terms of altitude, its populations are located from quite low up to 1500 m.

Invasiveness

The plant sometimes proves a great invasive ability and therefore we must not fail to mention here, that the joy for the spread of the species was not shared by all in all areas where it was grown as an ornamental.

Among those who did not enjoy it were all those states that have declared it an extremely invasive plant, including South Africa, Belize, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Life Span

Despite rumors and whispering that Lagerstroemia indica lives only 50 years, in fact the plant, under ideal conditions, can live up to a century and a half.

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) - Landscape Attributes

The Crapemyrtle is a perennial deciduous shrub or small tree of moderate growth rate and vase-shaped or inverted cone.

It develops multiple shoots from the base which show medium dense branches, where in the typical species they are more erect, giving an upright habit to the plant, while in the varieties the form can be either upright or more spreading.

It has a symmetrical canopy with regular outline and foliage that is characterized as medium texture, and the height of the plant reaches 15 m and its diameter 8 m, dimensions which it acquires within a period of about 20 years.

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

The Capsule Type Fruit - © C. Stubler, M. Ritter, W. Mark and J. Reimer
The Capsule Type Fruit - © C. Stubler, M. Ritter, W. Mark and J. Reimer

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) - Botanical Description

Trunk

The trunk or trunks are covered by a thin bark with a smooth to slightly coarse texture and a grayish-brown color. It often exfoliates in thin flakes, revealing on the trunks an orange-brown inner bark of particular decorative value.

Branches & Twigs

The twigs are covered with very fine pubescence which is lost as they mature, they are thin, square or subalate, and they have a reddish or green color, which later becomes brownish-green.

The branches are glabrescent, have a grayish-brown color, are quite strong and do not break easily.

Leaves

The leaves of Crapemyrtle are entire, oblong, elliptic or obovate, they are acute in apex, while in the base are broadly cuneate up to rounded, and sessile or with petiole 2 mm long. The lamina has a slightly leathery or papery texture and is glabrous or with slight indumentum on veins abaxially.

The leaves, which have very small deciduous stipules, are arranged in the shoots opposite and rarely alternate, take a dark green color, while in autumn they acquire yellow, orange-red and red hues, of remarkable intensity.

In terms of dimensions, their length is between 2.5 and 7 cm and their width is between 1.5 and 4 cm.

Flowers

The flowers of Crapemyrtle are densely develop on the tips of annual shoots in a conical – subpyramidal panicle inflorescence 7 to 20 cm (3-8 in) in length. They are hermaphrodite, six-merous and tubular in shape with frilly, clawed, and cristate petals.

The color of the flowers of the typical species is pink, but the varieties are red, violet, purple and white, while there are extremely interesting bicolor varieties onto each individual petal.

Flowering is long, lasting from 60 to 120 days and begins in the early summer to finish early in the autumn. Of course, in the areas of its natural distribution, the flowering period is much longer and the plant may be blooming almost all of the growing period.

Pollination

The pollination of the plant is carried out with insects.

Fruit & Seeds

The fruit of the plant is a dehiscent capsule with 4 to 6 valves, it has a brown color and an ellipsoid shape, and its dimensions are 0.7 to 1.2 cm in length and 1 to 1.3 cm in diameter.

The seeds are winged, have a length of 7 to 8 mm, brown-green color and are disc-shaped.

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) - Climate and Soil

The Lagerstroemia indica grows in a wide range of climates and in a variety of soil environments. In relation to the climatic types, the following are mentioned, among others:

  • Af – Tropical rainforest climate
  • Am – Tropical monsoon climate
  • As – Tropical savanna climate with dry summer
  • Aw – Tropical wet and dry savanna climate
  • BS – Steppe climate

(Köppen–Geiger Climate Classification System)

Temperature

The Crapemyrtle is a highly adaptive and hardy plant. In relation to temperatures, the minimum limit ranges between -15 to -17 °C (5-1.4 °F), but established plants with a south orientation can withstand up to -21 °C (-5.8 °F).

Frost does not affect it, whether it is late spring or early autumn.

With high temperatures it does not face a problem, as long as its roots are adequately protected by cover from direct sun exposure and the plant is watered normally until the age of 3 to 4 years.

Soil and pH

In relation to the soil, it grows in various types, however it thrives in medium to heavy loamy soils, which are cool and drain.

In terms of nutrients, it seems to respond better to those of medium fertility while in terms of pH it prefers acidic to slightly alkaline reaction soils, with optimum values ranging between 5 and 6.5.

Exposure

Although Crapemyrtles tolerate partial shade, in order to show rich flowering they require at least 6 hours a day of direct sun exposure.

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Crapemyrtle - Flowers and Leaves
Crapemyrtle - Flowers and Leaves

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) - Pests & Diseases

Sometimes the Crapemyrtles can cause problems from pests and diseases.

Of the diseases, the most important is powdery mildew, which is caused by the fungus Erysiphe lagerstroemia. The disease occurs when the days are hot and the nights are cold while the relative humidity is low. It is also frequent to be infected by Cercospora leaf spot caused by the fungus Cercospora lythracearum.

None of these two diseases destroys the plant, however the aesthetic damage can be very big. To deal with them, the appropriate formulations are used, while the selection of resistant varieties is an even better solution.

The same applies to entomological infestations, mainly by aphids (Tinocallis kahawaluokalan), which are sometimes a major problem.

Pests

Immediately below are recorded the most important pests of Lagerstroemia indica.

Various Insects
  • Adoretus versutus (Rose Beetle)
  • Altica
  • Anoplophora chinensis (Black And White Citrus Longhorn)
  • Chaetocnema basalis
  • Chaetocnema indica
  • Halyomorpha halys (Brown Marmorated Stink Bug)
  • Heliothrips haemorrhoidalis (Black Tea Thrips)
  • Homalodisca vitripennis (Glassy Winged Sharpshooter)
  • Pteroma plagiophleps
  • Popillia japonica (Japanese Beetle)
  • Retithrips syriacus (Black Vine Thrips)
  • Xylosandrus crassiusculus (Granulate Ambrosia Beetle)
  • Dialeurodes citri (Citrus Whitefly)
Aphids
  • Monellia caryella (Blackmargined Aphid)
  • Sarucallis kahawaluokalani Tinocallis kahawaluokalani (Crapemyrtle Aphid)
Scales
  • Ceroplastes ceriferus (Indian Wax Scale)
  • Ceroplastes floridensis (Soft Scale)
  • Eriococcus lagerostroemia
  • Selenaspidus articulatus (West Indian Red Scale)
Mealybags
  • Phenacoccus solenopsis (Cotton Mealybug)
Nematodes
  • Paratrichodorus porosus
  • Rotylenchulus reniformis (Reniform Nematode)

By using the appropriate insecticides, their treatment is from satisfactory to difficult, except for nematodes, which are very difficult to control.

Diseases

After the pests, the recording of the diseases follows.

Fungi
  • Armillaria tabescens (Armillaria Root Rot)
  • Cryphonectria cubensis (Eucalyptus Canker)
  • Erysiphe australianaErysiphe lagerstroemiae (Powdery mildew)
  • Fomitiporia mediterranea (Esca Disease)
  • Pseudocercospora lythracearum Cercospora lythracearum
Bacteria
  • Xanthomonas (Bacterial Leaf Spot)

By using the appropriate fungicides the treatment of the former is from satisfactory to difficult, while the bacterium of the plant is extremely difficult to control.

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) - Toxicity & Allergenicity

Toxicity

The Lagerstroemia indica is not toxic to humans and pets.

Allergenicity

There are no reports or indications that Crapemyrtles causes allergic reactions.

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) - Cultivars and Varieties

Being an extremely beloved ornamental plant, the Crapemyrtle counts hundreds of varieties and hybrids. Their characteristics vary, offering a wide range of plant appearance and height, resistant to disease and insect attacks, as well as an endless range of flower color options.

Lagerstroemia indica Varieties

Some of the most important varieties are:

  • Lagerstroemia indica ‘Coccinea’
  • Lagerstroemia indica‘ Jinhuang’
  • Lagerstroemia indica ‘Nivea’
  • Lagerstroemia indica ‘Red Imperator’
  • Lagerstroemia indica ‘Rosea’
  • Lagerstroemia indica ‘Rosea Nova’
  • Lagerstroemia indica ‘Rubra Magnifica’
  • Lagerstroemia indica ‘Superviolacea’

Some of the most important Crapemyrtle hybrids are:

  • Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Acoma’
  • Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Apalachee’
  • Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Cherokee’
  • Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Natchez’
  • Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Muskogee’
  • Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Powhatan’
  • Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Tuscarora’
  • Lagerstroemia indica speciosa ‘Monia’
  • Lagerstroemia indica speciosa ‘Princes’
  • Lagerstroemia (indica × fauriei × limii) ‘Arapaho’
  • Lagerstroemia (indica × fauriei × limii) ‘Cheyenne’

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Bark Stripes - © C. Stubler, M. Ritter, W. Mark and J. Reimer
Bark Stripes - © C. Stubler, M. Ritter, W. Mark and J. Reimer

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) - Use

The Lagerstroemia indica has not only ornamental but also medicinal as well as ethnobotanical value. All these aspects of the plant are briefly discussed immediately below.

Medicinal

The Crapemyrtle, according to a number of studies, contains various alkaloids, cardiac glycosides, tannins, saponins, sterols, triterpenes, anthraquinones, reducing compounds, flavonoids and phenolic glycosides.

In experimental work it has shown anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, antioxidant, anticancer, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, antithrombin and anti-Alzheimer’s effect.

Ethnobotany

The plant has a long tradition of ethnobotanical exploitation by many human communities. The roots, bark, leaves and flowers of the plant are used therapeutically.

For example, decoctions from the bark as well as from the leaves are administered as laxatives, while its seeds are given against insomnia and as narcotic.

The plant is generally used as an analgesic, to control cholesterol levels, to control blood pressure, against urinary dysfunctions, to treat diarrhea, to facilitate bowel movement and to treat diabetes.

Use in Garden and Landscape

The Crapemyrtle, as it is highly adaptable to different environments, is utilized in many ways:

  • Planted in pots and planters – especially small varieties
  • As a plant that can withstand the pollution, the harsh atmosphere of cities, it is planted in parks and squares
  • In the form of a tree, it creates beautiful tree lines on wide sidewalks or other similar spaces.
  • Its drought resistance makes it suitable for island and other areas where water for irrigation is scarce.
  • It is planted as a small shade tree in the lawns or in the flower beds of the gardens
  • Can be planted in outdoor living rooms as well as in patios
  • Combines with other plants in group plantings, such as Junipers (Juniperus x media ‘Pfitzeriana Glauca’), Pink Rock-Roses (Cistus creticus), Purple Japanese Barberries (Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea’), and White Gauras (Oenothera lindheimeri –  Gaura lindheimeri)

References

One of Crapemyrtle’s most important improvement projects took place in the U.S. National Arboretum, under the supervision of Dr. Donald Roy Egolf. Each of the hybrids created was given the name of a Native Americans Tribe.

However, neither Donald Roy Egolf nor any other Crapemyrtles breeder gave the name of Princess Pocachontas of the Native American Powhatan to any of the hybrids. Neil Young did it – but in one song.

The Neil Young’s song Pocahontas is heard through the divine voice of the great Johnny Cash, as a conclusion to another concise article of "Kalliergeia".

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