Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. The crape myrtle is often thought of as a shrub and, indeed, it was officially designated by the state of Texas as the 'Texas State Shrub,' even though it's an exotic plant that's native to China. For many colonists in the southeast, the crape myrtle was a southern replacement for lilacs, which don't do well in the region. But given time, crape myrtle can grow to a tree 40 feet in height. Some are known to have lived for 200 years. Whatever its size or age, crape myrtle has smooth, thin bark that peels as if from a recent sunburn. As the tan bark of crape myrtle peels in spring, new bark revealed is somewhat modeled, ranging from tan to cinnamon or orange. By fall, bark colors again have faded to tan. Young crape myrtles typically develop multiple stems and these are sometimes pruned to produce a single trunk. Once established, a crape myrtle is tolerant of drought, but this plant is not tolerant of salt-spray. Some varieties of crape myrtle mature at only twelve inches high and can be used as ground covers, patio plants, or grown as bonsai.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.