- Zechariah and the Myrtle Tree
- Crepe Myrtle Trees: Tips For Crepe Myrtle Care
- Information on Planting Crepe Myrtle
- Tips on Crepe Myrtle Care
- Lagerstroemia indica
- Crape Myrtle
The myrtle, Myrtus communis, is an attractive shrub. It has evergreen leaves and under optimum conditions grows to a height of about 24 feet. The fragrant, small, white flowers are produced in the middle of the summer. The fruit is a small, black berry, resembling a blueberry and is edible but seldom eaten. The entire plant contains a fragrant oil. Like so many other Bible plants, the myrtle is the only representative of its family in Israel. The eucalyptus, native to Australia and widely planted in the Middle East is in the same family.
At present, myrtle is restricted in its distribution to wetter areas in the Mediterranean region of the Middle East. Because the myrtle is attractive and easily cultivated it is widely planted as an ornamental shrub.
The myrtle is not mentioned in the Bible until the time of the captivity. The first reference is in Nehemiah 8:15 in regard to the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. ” . . . and they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: ‘Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make booths as it is written.’ ” Interestingly, the myrtle is not expressly mentioned in Leviticus 23: 37-40 that governs the Feast of Tabernacles.
The references in Isaiah (Isaiah 41:19 and 55:13) refer to the divine establishment of the people in the land in subjection to Jehovah. As an evergreen, fragrant shrub associated with watercourses, the myrtle is a fitting symbol of the recovery and establishment of God’s promises.
Zechariah 1:8-11 pictures a man standing in a ravine among myrtle trees apparently enjoying their humble beauty and fragrance. This is a good example of Bible ecology as a ravine or other watercourse is the habitat of the myrtle.
Zechariah and the Myrtle Tree
The first year the Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem they rebuilt the Temple Altar. The second year (536 B.C.), they laid the Temple foundation. Non-Jewish people who lived in the area, largely Samaritans, offered to help rebuild the Temple. When the Jews refused their assistance, these enemies initiated a systematic program to discourage the Jews from rebuilding the Temple. Temple construction stopped for about 10 years through the end (530 B.C.) of Cyrus reign down into the reign of Darius I (522-486 B.C.).
In the 2nd year of Darius reign, God spoke through the prophet Haggai (August, 520 B.C.). God’s message was for the Jews to complete the Temple. Haggai attributed the drought in Judah to the Temple being in ruins. Almost immediately the Jews initiated Temple construction. Two months after Haggai message from God, Zechariah received a message. Zechariah’s prophecy mirrored that of Haggai, e.g., rebuild the Temple; but included that the Jews repent and serve the Lord.
Several months later Zechariah received eight visions in one night. In the first vision, Zechariah saw a man riding a red horse. Then, the man stood among myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind the man were other horses. The man explained to Zechariah that these were the riders that God sent throughout the earth. The riders came back and reported that the world was at peace. Hearing the riders’ reports, the angel of the Lord asked God how long he was going to withhold mercy from Jerusalem. God responded with kind and comforting words to the concerned angel: God was jealous for Jerusalem and Zion. He was angry with the nations who punished the Jews because they went too far in brutality against Judah. God’s plan was to punish the offending nations and return to Jerusalem with comfort and mercy. He promised that Judah’s towns would again overflow with prosperity.
The setting for Zechariah’s first vision is defined in detail. The man who rode the red horse stood among myrtle trees in a small, narrow, steep-sided valley. MacDonald (1995) said that the myrtle trees in the ravine represented Israel under Gentile subjection. In the Bible, the angel of the Lord is often identified as the second person of the Trinity (Christ); consequently, it was Christ expressing his concern for the well-being of the Jews and Jerusalem (Adeyemo, 2006).
The myrtle of the Bible is the Myrtus communis. Its origins are the Middle East and the Mediterranean region. At one time wild myrtle was common throughout Palestine and Lebanon. Today in Israel, most myrtle bushes are grown intentionally and used for ornamental purposes; however, some wild plants remain in the Upper Galilee and Golan areas. Although myrtle is hardy to temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit, it is damaged by cold drying wind. Myrtle is classified as an evergreen shrub or small tree that will grow to 24 feet tall. The myrtle fruit is a purplish-black berry known in the Middle East as mursins. Mursins can be dried then ground add flavor to stews or boiled to yield a jelly or a beverage.
The myrtle is one of the four blessed plants used in the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles (Sukkoth). To fill the requirement for Sukkoth, three leaves must grow from one point on the myrtle stem. Jewish sages compared the myrtle, which has a good smell but no taste, to Israelites those who do good deeds, but do not study the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament).
Symbolism: Prosper, Prosperity
Many world cultures assigned meaning to the myrtle blossom to include beauty, love, paradise, and immortality. For the Jews, myrtle can symbolize sweetness, justice, divine generosity, peace, God’s promise, and recovery. Zechariah’s vision of horsemen, angels and God among the myrtle trees reinforced God’s promise that the returned exiles would be prosperous. Prosperity means a person or group thrived or flourished and was successful, especially in financial or economic terms.
For the Jews of Zechariah’s time to prosper, God required that they repent, serve the Lord, and rebuild the temple Other Bible verses identified additional requirements for prosperity. See Table 4 for a summary of some of these requirements for prosperity. They apply equally to Christians today.
Table 4: Some Biblical Requirements for Prosperity
When we consider God’s requirements for prosperity, they do not seem particularly onerous, e.g., repent, obey God’s laws, trust God, do what is right in God’s eyes, and be generous. Prosperity not only benefits people who receive God’s abundance; it also benefits and causes joy in the entire city and region (Proverbs 11:10).
The Bible revealed reasons that people do not prosper. The chief reasons were the opposite of behaviors that cause prosperity. Disobeying God (Deuteronomy 28:62), having a perverse heart (Proverbs 17:20), and concealing sin (Proverbs 28:13) lead to lack of prosperity The problem is that we all see and know people who have no regard for God or his laws but they seem to get ahead (prosper) in the workplace and in society. How can we meld our personal experiences with what the Bible says, yes, even promises, about prosperity being related to a godly life?
The great prophet Jeremiah asked God the same question. Jeremiah’s explicit words were “why do the ways of the wicked prosper” Why do the faithless live at ease?” (Jeremiah 12:1, NIV-SB, 2002). God response was to Jeremiah but also to all of us who ask him the same question. God assure Jeremiah that evil individuals will sow wheat but reap thorns; they will wear themselves out but gain nothing (Jeremiah 12:13).
Over breakfast Bruce and I talk about how difficult it is to deal with friends and relatives who do not embrace the ways of Christ. Some are prosperous and seem to live charmed lives. At times their actions are deliberately or indifferently cruel. We know that as Christians, we can not to be offended by what they do, nor can we respond in kind. Instead, our prayers must be that we do not hurt them inadvertently. We need to pray for their redemption and their prosperity.
Reflection. Because we are Christians does not mean we will be prosperous. Because a person is not a Christian does not mean he will not be prosperous.
I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/
Copyright December 16, 2012; carolyn a. roth
Crepe Myrtle Trees: Tips For Crepe Myrtle Care
Crepe myrtle trees, in many varieties, overlook an abundance of southern landscapes. Southern gardeners love their crepe myrtles for summer bloom, attractive, peeling bark and limited crepe myrtle care. How to grow crepe myrtle is not an issue in most areas to which they are hardy, USDA Zones 9-7 (with some special varieties surviving in zone 6), as they are easy to grow in the right location.
Information on Planting Crepe Myrtle
Planting crepe myrtle is similar to planting other shrubs and trees.
Crepe myrtle trees should be planted in a sunny location. Soil need not be rich or amended; crepe myrtle trees are adaptable to most soils except those that are soggy. Sunlight and well-draining soil afford a wealth of summer blooms and help keep pests away.
Newly planted crepe myrtles should be well-watered until roots are established and are then mostly drought tolerant. Fertilizer is usually not necessary, unless blooms appear limited. Full bloom may not occur until the second year after planting. A soil test can indicate the need for fertilization. Crepe myrtle prefers a soil pH of 5.0 to 6.5.
When planting crepe myrtle in limited space, choose a smaller cultivar so that you won’t be tempted to over prune. Crepe myrtle trees are available in dwarf varieties, such as the bright purple blooming Centennial and the deep red Victor. Or choose the semi-dwarf Caddo that blooms in bright pink. Smaller varieties grow well in containers and some hybrids grow in colder zones.
Tips on Crepe Myrtle Care
The difficulty most often arises when caring for crepe myrtles. Crepe myrtles trees are sometimes susceptible to sooty mold and powdery mildew, but these are easily cured with an organic spray.
The most daunting and incorrectly practiced aspect of crepe myrtle care is pruning” Crepe murder usually occurs when an overly enthusiastic homeowner severely cuts back top branches on crepe myrtle trees, ruining the natural shape and form of the lovely landscape specimen.
Caring for crepe myrtle should include limited pruning and little removal of growing branches. Too much pruning from the top sends suckers shooting from the bottom of the tree or the roots, resulting in additional pruning and unnecessary crepe myrtle care. It can also result in an unattractive winter form.
As mentioned above, crepe myrtles are sometimes attacked by powdery mildew that can limit blooms. Insects, such as aphids, may feed on succulent new growth and create a substance called honeydew that attracts sooty black mold spores. Crepe myrtle care to get rid of these problems can include a thorough overall spray of insecticidal soap or Neem oil. Remember to spray the underside of the leaves.
Limit crepe myrtle care, especially pruning, to thinning when needed. Now that you’ve learned how to grow crepe myrtle, plant one in your landscape this year.
Phonetic Spelling lay-ger-STROY-mee-a IN-dih-kuh Description
The crepe myrtle is a favorite of many southern gardeners. (Crepe myrtle is the preferred common name in the south). The draw for this plant is that is blooms at a time when most trees are not blooming. If the plant is healthy, it will be covered with blooms that will last for months during the hottest part of the summer.
Crepe myrtles are deciduous, have a rapid growth rate, and are often seen in their multi-stemmed form. They will grow in almost any kind of soil: sand, loam or clay, although it prefers moist, well-drained soil and full sunlight. This plant is easily transplanted and is drought and alkaline tolerant, but it does have pest and disease problems. It is even possible to grow them in containers if they are watered and fertilized properly. They will grow in partial shade, however, the best flowering will occur on plants that receive more than 6 hours of direct sun. This plant blooms from June until fall, and to promote flower bloom, it is best to trim off seed pods. Fall color is not very impressive because the tree is tropical and loses it’s leaves early. This plant can be grown as a street tree with ground cover underneath, as an espalier, or as a specimen.
Crepe myrtle breeding and cultivation have produced several different colors of flowers, ranging from white to purple to every shade of red. They can be purchased for small spaces with plants that reach a mature height of 3 to 5 feet, to large shade trees reaching heights of 40 feet, and almost any size in between.
Work has been done in breeding this original crepe myrtle Lagerstroemia indica with a Japanese crepe myrtle Lagerstroemia faurei, which features red, flaky bark and resistance to powdery mildew. Most new varieties that are on the market today are a result of this breeding program.
For more information on the newer varieties, their mature height, flower color, and how to solve some of the more common problems associated with crepe myrtles such as powdery mildew or lack of flowering visit the web site on crepe myrtles put out by Clemson University: http://www.clemson.edu/crapemyrtle/
Quick ID Hints:
- Twigs have decurrent ridges
- Has short petioles
- Leaves are opposite, alternate, or in whorls of 3s
- Flowers are 6-parted, anthocyanin, and have clawed petals
- Flowers with style-like staminodes
- Inflorescence is a terminal panicle
- Fruit is a dehiscent capsule, 6-valved, and brown
- Bark exfoliates, exposing hues of brown to gray
Cultivars / Varieties: Tags: #purple#gold#red#tropical#white#pink#deciduous#full sun#drought tolerant#specimen#white flowers#purple flowers#pink flowers#tree#espalier#street tree#playground#moist soil#fast growing#cpp#well-drained soil#transplant#gold flowers#full sunlight#deer resistant#children’s garden#groundcover#red flower#alkaline soil tolerant#pollinator plant#fantz#flower
Common name: Crape myrtle
Scientific name: Lagerstroemia indica
Habit: Crape myrtles grow as shrubs or trees from 9-foot tall 8-foot wide to about 25-foot tall and 12-foot wide. Taller than wide. Crown uniformity is symmetrical. Crown shape is vase. Crown density and growth rate is moderate.
Leaves: Crape myrtles have bright fall colors, considered very attractive and decorative. They have dark green leaves, with a red fringe upon opening. In the fall the leaves turn red, yellow, or orange. Leaf type is simple, shape is oval and venation is pinnate. They have an alternate/subopposite arrangement (see Figure 1). Leaf persistence is classified as deciduous. The blade length is less than 2 inches.
Twigs & Bark: Crape myrtles have thin, smooth, grey or light brown bark which peels in the summer and fall showing patches of new bark in shades of cream, pink, and orange (see Figure 2). In the winter, branches become smooth again (seem polished) and their curving form is shown. Branches develop an attractive pattern. Twigs are very thin.
Figure 2. Crape myrtle bark in fall season.
Flowers & Fruit: Crape myrtle flowers may be white, pink, lavender, or red (see Figure 3). The first bloom shows in early summer and continues to fall. As the flowers fade they are replaced with a brown capsule-like fruit. This fruit attracts birds and usually stays throughout the winter. Fruit shape are oval to round, size is less than one half inch. The covering is dry and hard with brown color.
Figure 3. Flowers of the crape myrtle.
Where it’s from
Native Range: The crape myrtle is native to China, Korea, northern Australia, and parts of Oceania, and is cultivated in warmer climates around the world. It has been embraced by Americans and has become a dominant landscape plant in the South. Crape Myrtles need full sun, and need soil to be well drained and slightly acidic. They also respond to nitrogen in early spring. They do well in warmer climates, due to their need for full sun and well drained environments. They also have a high drought tolerance.
Ecological Notes: Crape myrtles can asexually reproduce. Crape myrtles are usually free of pests and diseases, but have issues with Japanese beetle which feeds on the leaves and flowers, sooty mold, cercospora leaf spot, and powdery mildew. Plant breeders have developed crape myrtle hybrids to combat mildew issues that plague plants in humid climates. Crape myrtles benefit from pruning to promote new growth. The flowers and leaves and peeling bark create a mess though in the area in which they are in.
What we use it for
Crape myrtle is sold commercially mostly as an ornamental and shade tree. It is found in many gardens and used for decoration in landscapes due to low maintenance and attraction. Crepe myrtle is common in the south of France, and most of Italy; in the United States, it is an icon across the South. There is a crape myrtle company that has catalogs of them online, you can have different sizes shipped through UPS, and this has company has been around since 1977. They are located in Florida. The cost is around 25 dollars and that’s for only one tree. To get 150 trees it is approximately 2,000 dollars.
Cynthia Clifford ‘18, BIOL 336: Botany, Spring 2017
© 2017 HalieWestPhotography
(Photo by Brittany Tatum)
View the Location on Campus
Classification: Angiosperm, dicot
Common name: Crape Myrtle
Varieties on Campus: Tuscarora, Miami, Sioux, Natchez, Muskogee
General Information (2,4)
Region of Origin: Asia
USDA Plants Hardiness Zones: 7-9 (8-10 for Tuscarora)
Growth Habit: Large shrub or small tree
- Arrangement: Opposite or whorled
- Shape: Elliptic to obovate to oblong
- Other: 1-2 3/4 inches long, 3/4-1 1/2 inches wide
(Photo by Brittany Tatum)
(Photo on left by Brittany Tatum, photo on right by Jessica Bartek)
(Photo by Jessica Bartek)
- Fruit type: Dehiscent capsule
- Size: 1/2 inch
(Photo by Jessica Bartek)
Horticultural Information (1,2,3,4)
- Light: Full sun
- pH: 6.0-6.5
- Maintenance: Very easy to care for
- Landscape Uses: Hedges, screens, masses, ornamentals
Interesting Facts (2,4)
- The Crape Myrtle flowers from about 60-120 days, making it one of the longest blooming trees.
- Tuscarora and Miami are hybrids obtained by crossing Lagerstroemia indica with L. Fauriei or L. speciosa. The U.S. National Arboretum created this beautiful plant and it is known as the Indian Tribe group which was named for American tribes.
- Sioux won a Georgia Gold Medal in 1996 and a Mississippi Medallion in 1999.
- Muskogee is a hybrid between L. indica and L. fauriei.
Prepared by Brittany Tatum as a course requirement for BIOL 3630/5630, Spring 2013
Edited by Jessica Bartek