Sunday, July 21, 2013

Crepe Myrtle, Crape Myrtle, Crapemyrtle

Spell it how you like! To the chagrin of many an editor, I’m sure, there is no hard and fast rule about how to spell the name of this most unusual and prolific tree of the South. I am going to choose the “crepe” option myself, because its colorful blossoms resemble that of “crepe” paper.

Originally from China and other Asian countries, the crepe myrtle thrives in the heat. It was brought to South Carolina by Andre Michaux, French/royal botanist to King Louis the XVI. (And if you’re interested in the topic, look up Andre Michaux’s biography; he led quite an interesting life at an interesting time in American history.)

For me, coming to Texas from the canopy of New England trees was shocking because there are no trees to speak of here, at least not in the part of Texas I live. But this particular breed has struck a note with me and I can’t tear my eyes away from them. Though the vibrant colors of the blossoms are wonderful, the parts of this tree which engage me are the trunk and limbs.

There is something very human about the body of this tree. It is muscled and smooth like flesh. It dimples and wrinkles and folds. It has elbows and joints, sinews and varied tones. Some trees appear as though they are sculpted in clay. Others, at the base, look like melted candle wax.

And then, like snakes, they shed their skin. And they drop their colors on the ground, making us to walk through leftover party favors.

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