Family : Lythraceae
Text © Pietro Puccio
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The species is native to Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam where it grows in the humid forests, often in swampy grounds and close to river streams, up to about 500 of altidude.
The genus was honoured by Linnaeus to his friend Magnus Lagerström (1691-1759) who was director of the Swedish East India Company; the specific name is the Latin adjective “speciosus, a, um” = beautiful, with obvious reference.
Common names: crepe flower, giant crape myrtle, pride-of-India, queen’s crape-myrtle, queen’s-flower, rose of India (English); resedá-flor-da-rainha, resedá-gigante (Brazil); banaba, makablos, parasabukong (Philippines); ketangi (Java); ajakari, arjuna, challa, chennangi, holedasal, jarul, karaca, motabondara, nandi, tamhan, varagogu (India); bungur (Indonesia); berangan asu, bongor biru, bongor raya, sebugor (Malaysia); gawkng-uchyamang, pyinma (Myanmar); chuang muu, tabaek dam (Thailand); banglang (Vietnam).
The Lagerstroemia speciosa (L.) Pers. (1806) is a deciduous or semi-deciduous very ramified tree, up to 20 m tall, with erect trunk, up to about 60 cm of diameter, and smooth bark of grey to pale brown colour tending to flake off. The leaves, on a 0,5-1 cm long petiole, are simple, opposite or sub-opposite, oblong-elliptic with entire margin and acute or obtuse apex, 5-22 cm long and 4-10 cm broad, coriaceous, of intense bright green colour above, paler below, that turn orange red before falling.
Terminal panicle inflorescences, erect, 15-40 cm long, carrying numerous flowers, on a 1-1,5 cm long pedicel, of colour varying from pale pink, to lavender, to purple pink, of 5-8 cm of diameter, lasting 2-3 days. Campanulate calyx, striped longitudinally, with 6(-9) green lobes and covered externally by a light greyish or ferruginous tomentum, persistent in fruit. Corolla with 6(-7) unguiculate petals (petals with long narrow base similar to a stem) orbicular with wavy margins, 1,5-3,5 cm long and 1-2 cm broad, and a multitude of stamina with yellow anthers. The fruit is a globose capsule, woody, 2-2,5 cm long and broad, initially green, then blackish when ripe, containing several winged seeds, about 1 cm long, of pale brown colour.
It easily reproduces by seed, previously kept in water for one day, in draining loam rich of humus maintained humid, but without stagnations, at the temperature of 25-28 °C, with germination times of 1-2 months and first blooming after 3-5 years. It also propagates by woody and semi-woody cutting, air layering, micropropagation and through the root suckers.
Species of huge ornamental and landscaping value, cultivable in the tropical and humid subtropical climate zones and marginally in the milder temperate-warm ones where temperatures around the 0 °C are short lasting exceptions. Utilizable as isolated specimen, in group and as roads tree, requires an exposition in full sun and is not particular about the soil, from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline, preferably draining and maintained constantly humid, but grows also in the little draining ones, bears the water stagnations, and well rooted, may bear even short drought periods. Useful are the fertilizations with slow-releasing products balanced with microelements to prevent chlorosis phenomena. It is also employed in the reforestation of degraded areas and for controlling the erosion, thanks to its ample and dense rooting apparatus.
The wood, of reddish brown colour, presents good characteristics of resistance and duration and is utilized in the constructions, for boats, fine furniture, floors and objects of everyday use. Parts of the plant are utilized in the popular medicine in the origin countries, in particular for treating the diabetes, laboratory researches in this field, done on the extracts of the plant, have given results worthy of further investigation.
The tree is the floral emblem of Maharashtra state of central-western India.
Synonyms: Munchausia speciosa L. (1770); Lagerstroemia major Retz. (1779); Lagerstroemia munchausia Willd. (1779); Adambea glabra Lam. (1783); Adambea hirsuta Lam. (1783); Lagerstroemia flos-reginae Retz. (1788); Lagerstroemia reginae Roxb. (1796); Lagerstroemia hirsuta (Lam.) Willd. (1799); Lagerstroemia plicifolia Stokes (1812); Lagerstroemia augusta Wall. (1829); Lagerstroemia macrocarpa Wall. (1829); Murtughas hirsuta (Lam.) Kuntze (1891).
The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza