Lythraceae (loosestrife family) Lagerstroemia

Lagerstroemia indica crape myrtle

Himalaya to eastern China, southeastern Asia
Tuscarora crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia × egolfii ‘Tuscarora’) blooms at summer’s end in the Inner Quad. Sairus Patel, 26 Aug 2021
Clear medium pink selection of crape myrtle, the Knoll. Sairus Patel, 9 Sep 2023

A very attractive shrub or tree with showy flowers throughout summer. The flowers form terminal clusters, have a crinkled surface like crape, and come in a variety of colors from white to pinks and reds, with a few approaching purple. The flower cluster, with its center of bright yellow anthers, is contained within a crown of six bracts; later, when a fruit forms, this crown holds the fruit. The bundles of fruit have their own ruddy color, retain the old stigma, and, at a glance, are easily mistaken for the bundles of buds that precede the flowers. All three stages may be present at once. The thin bark peels annually, exposing a beautiful, touchworthy, satiny sheen.

An old specimen with multiple stems may be seen at 611 Alvarado Row on the left of the house. Groups were planted in 1975 on Campus Drive East where it approaches Junipero Serra Boulevard. A disfiguring powdery mildew (Erysiphe lagerstroemiae) needs to be controlled by copper fungicide in spring, and with lime-sulfur in winter, but mildew resistant plants have become available, the result of an extensive crape myrtle breeding program at the US National Arboretum starting in the 1960s. These hybrids, mostly with the Japanese crape myrtle, L. fauriei (sometimes known as L. subcostata var. fauriei), have proved to be immensely successful in horticulture. The program’s late head, Donald Egolf, has recently been honored posthumously in the name given to L. indica and L. fauriei hybrids: L. × egolfii.

‘Natchez’ cultivar of crape myrtle on south side of Old Union. Sairus Patel, 2 Jul 2019
Pure red ‘Dynamite’ cultivar of crape myrtle, Pearce Mitchell Place. Sairus Patel, 3 Sep 2023

Conspicuous plantings that appeared in Menlo Park on El Camino Real near Menlo Avenue were bound to attract attention. Campus’s first hybrid, a multitrunked ‘Tuscarora’, with dark coral pink flowers, was planted in the inner northeast island of the Inner Quad when the Quad was paved in 1984. In the 1990s, bulk plantings of sizable trees began, for example of ‘Tuscarora’ on Galvez Street between Jane Stanford Way and Campus Drive, and a parking-lot row of white-flowered ‘Natchez’, with dark cinnamon-brown bark, between Lagunita Eucalipto and Murray Hall. A group of 10 ‘Tuscarora’ encloses Knight Plaza on the east side. This formal space, on the north end of Lathrop Library, is graced by fern podocarpus, hornbeams, and a colonnade.

‘Natchez’ was planted at the Old Union in 2007, after the building’s renovation, and has been used extensively since then, including a row along Galvez on the east side of the John A. & Cynthia Fry Gunn Building (SIEPR) immediately adjacent to the sidewalk. Several flank the front entrance to Vaden Health Center. See a formal grid of 20 at Crothers Hall near Crothers Way. Several ‘Muskogee’, with light lavender-pink flowers, can be seen at 719 Alvarado Road on campus. The ‘Natchez’, ‘Muskogee’, and ‘Tuscarora’ trifecta ruled in Palo Alto for many years, favored as the most disease-resistant by City arborists.

A pale lavender, with very little undertone of pink, may be seen on the substantial trusses of flowers in late summer on six ‘Yuma’ in front of Enchanted Broccoli Forest (this cultivar has a soupçon of L. amabilis mixed in). A handsome row of crape myrtles, one purple, the others in shades of clear pink, edges the back lawn of the Knoll.

In recent years, pure red ‘Dynamite’, a cultivar of L. indica, has been appearing on campus, for example along the northwest side of Arrillaga Family Sports Center. Occasional medium pink flowers will appear within the masses of red. In Palo Alto, see several ‘Dynamite’ at 2075 Yale Street, and a row of deep purple–flowered ‘Catawba’ on the left side of 2140 Bowdoin Street.

Lavender ‘Yuma’ cultivar of crape myrtle, Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Sairus Patel, 9 Sep 2023
‘Tuscarora’ crape myrtle on Galvez Street. John Rawlings, 26 Sep 2005
Crape myrtle leaves, opposite but somewhat staggered. John Rawlings, Aug 2005
Lagerstromia indica leaf, flower, fruit. From: Howard E. McMinn & Evelyn Maino, An Illustrated Manual of Pacific Coast Trees

About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. John Rawlings subsequently added the note on ‘Natchez’. Vaden location added (Aug 2017, SP). GSB updated to Lathrop Library (Dec 2018, SP). Entire entry revised, multiple additional locations and cultivars added (Sep 2023, SP). Edits [cultivar parentage ref. USNA] (Jan 2024, SP).