Few trees at the JC Raulston Arboretum are as well known as our old Japanese crepe myrtles and mid-summer is the time to come see the outstanding bark. In the mid 1950’s, John Creech of the US National Arboretum traveled to Japan’s Yakushima Island to collect seed. He sent seedlings of Lagerstroemia fauriei to NC State University where 5 seedlings were planted on the site where the Arboretum now stands. Three of these original plants still grow on the grounds (the other 2 were moved to a park in Charlotte, NC and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens). J.C. Raulston noticed that 1 of the trees was an especially upright form with spectacular bark. He named this plant ‘Fantasy’ and it has been a signature specimen at the Arboretum ever since. In mid-summer the beautiful rich cinnamon brown bark exfoliates in sheets to reveal smooth orange, white, and pale cinnamon bark. It is covered with white flowers in June and the foliage shows exceptional powdery mildew resistance. Fall color is rich gold. ‘Fantasy’ grows much larger than the common crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) with showier bark but does not flower for nearly as long. Japanese crepe myrtle was used at the National Arboretum to breed with the common crepe myrtle for disease resistance and a series of selections were released with Native American names (i.e. ‘Natchez’).
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