I am happy to be included in The Hopper! My essay is called “What White Tree is Blooming Now,” so I wanted a pic of the #litmag next to . . . a white tree blooming now. But in September, there just aren’t many white trees around. However, like most Southern cities, Nashville does have a shit-ton of crepe myrtles. And even though crepe myrtles are classed as shrubs, they can soar to over 30 feet. And as nearly every suburban block proves, these plants bloom month after month after month, taking us from summer to fall.
Actually, a crepe myrtle is ideal for my photo because The Hopper’s theme this time is “ecesis,” which is a fancy word for “the establishment of a plant or animal in a new habitat.” And boy, has the crepe myrtle established itself in a new habitat. Although it is ubiquitous in the American South, and although it is sold under All-American cultivar names like Apalachee
the genus hails from India and Asia.
I’ve already whinged about this big, fat, horticultural lie here.
Crepe myrtles do not contribute a great deal to native habitat. Some cultivars offer nectar and pollen, but not all. Yes, they can be lovely, especially if not pruned back to knobbly knuckles every damn year, but there are far more functional shrubs to plant: shrubs which can play a bigger role in feeding wildlife.
And one more thing about crepe myrtle: how to spell it?
Crepemyrtle, crepe myrtle, crape myrtle, crapemyrtle?
It depends upon whom you ask. When Lisa and I created the arboretum at school, we took as our authority Manual of Woody Landscape Plants by Michael Dirr, and Dirr says Crapemyrtle. And then, for some reason, I forgot, which means the lovely, anodized aluminum tree sign hanging on the school’s tree is spelled wrong.
Edited in April 2021:
Bless my heart. Only I can take what should have been a Happy Publication Announcement and turn it into a PSA against Crepe Myrtles.
But I’ve come back from the future to tell you that The Hopper has just archived my essay—previously only available in the print edition of Issue III—in an online format. Here it is.