Bungkur kecil is scientifically known in Latin as Lagerstroemia indica. Internationally in English this plant is popular with the names Indian crape myrtle, crape myrtle or crepeflower.
In Indonesia, apart from being known as bungur kecil, this plant is also popular under the name bungur Jepang. In Malaysia, bungur kecil or crape myrtle is known as bongor biru, in India as ajhar, arjuna or bondara, in the Philippines as banaba, while in Thailand as chuangmuu or tabaek dam.
The genus name, Lagerstroemia is in honor of the Swedish botanist and Director of the Swedish East India Company and friend of Linanneus Magnus von Lagerstroem (1691-1759). The specific species name indica refers to the name of the region where this plant originates, namely India (Lagerstroemia Indica - Plant Finder, 2024).
Crape myrtle is known to originate from the Asian region which includes India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Vietnam. From Asia, crape myrtle was distributed to Europe, Africa and America as an ornamental plant.
Crape myrtle began to be used as an ornamental plant for garden decoration in Europe and America in 1759. In the Caribbean, based on reports, this plant was only introduced in 1881 to be precise on the island of Puerto Rico (Rojas-Sandoval & Acevedo-Rodríguez, 2022).
Shape Description and Growth
Crape myrtle is a shrub or small tree that can grow to a height of up to 7 meters with a wide spread that can reach up to 4 meters to 7 meters.
Crape myrtle has thin bark with a light gray color equipped with dark spots. The branches are slender, 4-angled, and glabrous.
The leaves are sessile with petioles approximately 2 mm long with an elliptical and oval shape. It is dull green and will turn orange, red, or yellow before falling off due to its deciduous nature.
The beautiful and attractive flowers have different color variations according to the variety. However, generally, they are purple, lavender, pink, red, and white. The small flowers measure 30 cm to 60 cm wide.
The fruit is dry, oval in shape, hard, and brown. Has a width of about 30 cm (Find Trees & Learn | University of Arizona Campus Arboretum, 2024).
Crape myrtle is said to grow best in fertile, moderately moist, well-draining loamy soil in full sun.
Benefits of Crape Myrtle for Health and Other Uses
Crape myrtles are generally used as ornamental plants planted to complement garden decoration. However, due to its dense and widely spreading root system, this species is also used in erosion control and is therefore often also planted as a border or border support plant in gardens and cultivated areas (Rojas‐Sandoval & Acevedo‐Rodríguez, 2022).
Other reports suggest that the crape myrtle aphids which are the specialized host of this species can attract a variety of beneficial insects that feed on them. For this reason, crape myrtle is widely planted in pecan orchards and is used widely in landscapes where there are pest problems. In a horticultural setting, it is perfect for lawns, patios or even along paths (Find Trees & Learn | University of Arizona Campus Arboretum, 2024).
Even though it is more popularly used as an ornamental plant, Crape myrtle also contains several compounds that are good for health. Among them are alkaloids, cardiac glycosides, tannins, saponins, sterols, triterpenes, anthraquinones, reducing compounds, flavonoids, and phenolic glycosides. Based on a research report written by Ali Esmail Al-Snafi (2019) it was also found that small flowers show anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, antioxidant, anticancer, antimicrobial, anti-alzheimer's, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective and antithrombin effects.
Another study conducted by Kim et al. (2022) also shows the potential for using crape myrtle extract or Lagerstoemia indica to prevent hair loss and stimulate hair growth.