Monday, 21 January 2013

Lagerstroemia speciosa

Lagerstroemia speciosa, also known as Rose of India, Pride of India, and Queen's Crape Myrtle is from the family Lythraceae. It is native to the Indian Subcontinent, Southern China and Indochina.

This small tree can grow up to 20m in the wild, but in an urban area, it usually grows up to about 15m. This is because the terminal branch growth is halted by every blooming period. Thus greater tree heights are attained under more forested conditions, where blooming is delayed as a result of more abundant moisture. 

The crown is dense and broadly conical when young, but it becomes rounded, relatively low and pendulous when older. Simple and oppositely arranged, the leaves of the Pride of India are broadly oblong and somewhat leathery, with prominent veins on the underside of the leaf. Young leaves emerge glossy red, turning pinkish, light orange, light green and then finally green. Old leaves wither to orange-red before being shed. The tree is drought-deciduous, shedding leaves over a few days or gradually over a few months, depending on the severity of dry period. 

Conspicuous and measuring 5-7cm across, the flowers only shed 2-3 days later. The 6 papery-wrinkled and crepe-like petals turn from pinkish-purple to fading white before they shed. They are pollinated by large bees. Flowers are held in elongated panicle inflorescence that is 30-40cm long, sticking out from the crown, with individual flowers opening progressively from bottom to top of panicle. It blooms several times per year, with flowers appearing with new shoots. Blooming often more spectacular in climates with distinct dry-cool weather, taking place from late summer to autumn. Its fruits are woody dehiscent capsules, around 2cm across. 

They are seated on persistent woody calyx and mature from green to brown, splitting radially into 6 parts when ripe. Only larger flowers in cluster set fruits. The seeds of the Lagerstroemia speciosa are numerous, small (165,000-235,000 dry seeds/kg), triangular, flattened apically winged and dispersed by wind.

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