Crapemyrtles (Lagerstroemia) are deciduous shrubs or trees with prolific summer flowers. Their popularity is due in large part to low maintenance requirements in sunny climates, wide range of growth habits, disease resistance, and bark characteristics, as well as having a long flowering period (up to 120 days). Once well-established, they are extremely tolerant to heat and drought. Lagerstroemia was first introduced to the southern U.S. from southeast Asia more than 150 years ago, and is comprised of at least 80 known species. Most modern cultivars are L. indica and L. fauriei hybrids. L. speciosa is a tropical crapemyrtle with very large flowers, but lacks cold hardiness. It is a vigorous plant, but only when grown in Hardiness zones 9 or 10. We recently established microsatellite markers for Lagerstroemia and evaluated their utility for verifying interspecific hybrids. Here we verify F1 hybrids between L. indica `Tonto', `Red River', and L. speciosa. We also genotyped two commercially available L. speciosa hybrids. Currently, we are using crapemyrtle SSRs for cultivar identification and germplasm conservation. Future research includes marker-assisted breeding to produce powdery mildew and flea beetle resistant cultivars, as well as improved growth habit and fall foliage color.
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