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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - July 30, 2007

From: Lantana, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Diseases and Disorders
Title: Bloom color change in Choctaw Crape Myrtle
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

In 2006 my wife bought a Choctaw Crape Myrtle from a local nursery. It had a tag from Greenleaf Nursery and had several blooms in the "correct" pink color. The plant was 5-6 ft tall. It has grown to about 7-8ft now. When the 2007 blooms came out, they are all white instead of the expected (and previously observed) pink. Any suggestions about why the color change?

ANSWER:

Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.), native to SE Asia, is a widely popular woody ornamental flowering shrub throughout southeastern U.S. landscapes. The widespread use and popularity of Lagerstroemia has lead to its categorization as a "natulalized" U.S. plant. Although the focus of research and the expertise of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is limited to those plants native to North America, we have been checking to find an answer to this interesting problem.

Since no one here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has experienced the phenomenon you describe, we decided to go directly to the source and contacted the Greenleaf Nursery in Park Hill, Oklahoma.

Mr. Leon Mancha of Greenleaf Nursery offered these two possibilities.
"On a cloudy day or just as the flower bud opens, crape myrtle flowers are often white. Exposure to sunlight fully develops the color.
Is there a chance that there is a liner (a cutting that was inadverdently placed in the wrong container) of Natchez or Sarah's Favorite that has outgrown the Choctaw. Look for different color or texture of bark and different leaf size, shape as a clue to what might be happening."

Since you wrote us with the question, the first possibility is probably not the answer, however the second one seems plausible. Check your Crape Myrtle carefully to see if there are in fact two different varieties.

 

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