04 September 2010


Nearly 30 years ago I went to California and much admired the Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) trees that lined the streets in Los Angeles.

Soon after I arrived home, I found a small one in a local garden centre so I bought it. It has survived ever since, growing much larger and needing an enormous pot. I keep it indoors on a windowsill, but it only flowers if it has a lot of warmth and sunshine, and especially if it has been pruned. A couple of years ago I managed to get a cutting to grow.

This summer, both of my little trees managed to flower.

The flowers are unusual in that they have 6 petals. I was curious to find what other dicotyledonous plants have flowers with 6 petals, and the first I discovered was Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), and this turns out to be in the same family as the Crepe Myrtle (Lythraceae). Earlier this week I was out walking with a friend and we came across some Purple Loosestrife.

We also have it growing in our garden. Most (but not all) of the flowers have 6 petals.

Two days later, I was out walking again and we came across the other member of this family which commonly grows wild in the UK - Water-purslane (Lythrum portula). This is quite an insignificant plant which sprawls on mud.

Other members of the Lythraceae include Pomegranate and Henna
There is further information about this family in the online Flora of China, including a description and key to Lythraceae