|Author: ||R.I. Cabrera|
|Keywords: ||collection, crape myrtle, cultivar database, culture and management, educational website, flowering woody ornamental|
The woody ornamental Lagerstroemia has been in cultivation for centuries in its native SE Asia, favored for its lengthy and colorful flowering.
The genus, and in particular, L. indica L., was introduced to Europe in 1759 and it reached America a few decades later. The genus has naturalized in the southern U.S., becoming one of its most distinctive and popular flowering woody ornamentals.
This popularity is due to its wide assortment of inflorescence colors and a long summer flowering period (up to 120 days), along with an often exceptional exfoliating bark character.
Recent breeding programs in the U.S. and Europe, based mostly on two species (L. indica L. and L. fauriei Koehne), have significantly enhanced its range of sizes (from miniature 30 cm shrubs to +10 m trees), cold hardiness (down to USDA Zones 6-7), disease resistance (powdery mildew) and foliage fall colors.
Likely unknown to ornamental horticulturists are the commercial timber and medicinal uses of some species, out of the about 80 found in the genus.
An educational Lagerstroemia website is being released, highlighting its history, biology, taxonomy, uses, culture and management in the nursery and landscape.
The main feature of this site is a comprehensive searchable database with descriptions and pictures of most of the ornamental Lagerstroemia cultivars available in the U.S. and abroad.
Efforts are underway to establish an extensive Lagerstroemia cultivar collection at our institution.
Future and exciting developments are expected as various research groups are conducting projects on the genetics, physiology, culture and management of these plants.
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