The Muskogee tree is a form of crape myrtle. It is a cultivar of an introduced species originating in Asia and is commonly used as an ornamental plant throughout the southern United States. Its colorful and flamboyant flowers add interest and variety to the landscape. It is also a very hardy plant, well-suited for both urban and residential uses.
The tree is shrubby in appearance, usually producing multiple branches from the base. It can grow to 25 feet in height and spread just as wide. It has a fairly symmetrical canopy that is frequently vase-shaped. The foliage is fairly dense with a medium texture. The trunk and branches of the tree grow upward from the base and fork readily. Heavy flowering may cause upper branches to droop.
The leaves of Muskogee crape myrtle are oval in shape and deeply veined with smooth edges. They range from 2 to 4 inches long and 2 inches wide. The leaves are green, turning orange or red in the fall. The fruit is less than 1/2 inch in diameter, oval, brown, dry and hard. Each fruit opens to release four to eight small brown seeds. The bark of the Muskogee crape myrtle is thin and smooth and tends to peel naturally from the tree.
The flowers of the Muskogee crape myrtle are the most recognizable portion of the tree. They form in dense clusters on the ends of the upper branches of the plant. The flowers are very showy, forming 6- to 12-inch long clusters of lavender or pink blossoms. The flowers are frilly and crinkled, giving the impression of crumpled crepe paper.
Muskogee crape myrtle are hardy plants that are relatively easy to grow in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 11. They prefer full sun and can grow in a wide range of soil conditions, from clay and loam to very sandy soils. They are extremely drought tolerant and can go for long periods of time without irrigation. Yearly pruning of smaller branches and the removal of the top of larger branches is recommended to produce the best flowering. While the plant can be grown from seed, small potted trees, in the 1- to 5-gallon range, are commonly available in garden centers and nurseries.
Muskogee crape myrtle is a popular plant and is frequently used in both urban and suburban settings, adding color to the landscape. It is frequently featured as a specimen plant. The tree is fairly drought tolerant and has few requirements for maintenance. Muskogee crape myrtles are often found planted in median strips along highways, trimming parking lots, in parks and playgrounds and around decks and patios.