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Crape-myrtle in my Neighborhood

Through our new virtual programming series, Nature in your Neighborhood, we challenged volunteers to go out into their neighborhoods or backyards to see what plants sparked their interest. Whether plants are native or non native, we can all appreciate a connection to nature and the curiosity that it can spark!

By: Akansha Sallakonda

Prior to the Covid-19 quarantine, I always loved going to my nearby park and walking down a path filled with trees and flowers. In the springtime, there were always so many vibrant colors, from pink to yellow to white. One of the plants that caught my eyes was the Lagerstroemia indica, otherwise known as the Crape-myrtle. The Crape-myrtle is an ornamental plant native to China and the Korean peninsula and often blooms from mid-May to early June. It was first introduced in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1787. While it is a non-native species, several birds have found it useful and have learned to extract the seeds from the tree. The American goldfinch especially has taken a liking to this plant, often using its thin beak to extract the seeds of the Crape-myrtle. Other birds that have grown to rely on this plant’s seeds, including the dark-eyed juncos, house finches, northern cardinals, and white-throated sparrows.

The Crape-myrtle seeds are non-toxic to both animals and humans. The root is astringent and serves as a detoxicant. The flowers can be made into a paste that is applied to external cuts and wounds. The bark of the plant also helps with reducing fever. Make sure to talk to a professional before using.

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