The Trademark Tree of Tulsa

By Paul James

With all due respect to our state tree -- the redbud -- I think the crape myrtle defines Tulsa and its environs better than any other tree. That’s not to say it’s my favorite tree, because it isn’t, but it’s certainly among my favorites, and it vaults to the top of the list when it’s ablaze in summer blooms.

I remember a time when essentially all crape myrtles on the market were destined to grow at least 15-feet tall, the choices in terms of flower color were limited, and the leaf color was pretty much the same no matter which variety you chose.

All that’s changed. Leaf colors are now available in reddish to purple to almost black, and although the basic colors haven’t changed, the range of hues certainly has.

But the greatest thing about crape myrtles these days, as opposed to just a decade or so ago, is that there are so many sizes available, from less than two-footers to over 20-footers, and just about everything in between. And in addition to the familiar tree forms, there are some awesome shrub forms as well. In other words, there’s a spot somewhere in your garden for a crape myrtle, assuming it gets plenty of sun.

And just in case you’re wondering what is my favorite tree, it’s the Ginkgo. Except when crape myrtles are in full bloom.