Known for their unusual papery bark and abundant blooms, tropical flowering myrtles are a common sight in landscaping and gardens. Native to Southeast Asia and Australia, there are only a handful of tropical flowering myrtle varieties in a genus of over 3,000 species. Because of their tropical origins, flowering myrtles can produce flowers year-round, although they only do this in areas with a warm climate.
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Queen's Crape Myrtle
Queen's crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia speciosa) is a tropical flowering tree native to India, southeast Asia and the Philippines. Unlike many tropical trees, queen's crape myrtle is deciduous and produces brilliant red foliage in fall. It grows to 60 feet tall on average with a gently spreading, umbrella-like shape and light green, ovate leaves. Blooming throughout the summer, queen's crape myrtle bears erect, 15-inch long clusters of pinkish-purple flowers. Grown widely in parks and gardens throughout Southeast Asia, this species is resistant to pests and disease, as well as being tolerant of most soil types and weather.
Found in tropical forests along the northeast coast of Queensland, Australia, the golden penda (Xanthostemon chrysanthus) is a member of the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. Although it can grow to more than 45 feet tall in its native habitat, under cultivation golden penda is a rather small tree that responds well to pruning. It is grown widely in gardens for its attractive dark green and red foliage, as well as its showy clusters of vivid yellow flowers that appear in dense, spherical heads. Attractive to nectar-feeding birds, golden penda is a suitable plant for gardens in warmer climates.
Thai Crape Myrtle
Thai crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia floribunda) is an evergreen flowering tree native to peninsular Thailand, Malaysia and Burma. In its native habitat, this species can reach 60 feet high, although it seldom exceeds 18 feet under cultivation. The dark-green, 9-inch long leaves have a pointed oval shape with a pronounced fold down the centre. Dense masses of foliage cover the crown and can create a conical, oval or slightly cylindrical-shaped tree. Starting in late spring, Thai crape myrtle produces 15-inch long, upright flower stalks covered in pale lavender flowers that fade to white as they age. In warm climates, a second bloom can occur in late autumn. This species is known for the high viability of its seeds, which germinate readily and can produce dozens of trees each year.
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