Oh no. It can't be true.
But yes, researchers at the University of Florida report that some crape myrtles -- iconic in the south and the midatlantic -- and yes, even appearing and surviving on Cape Cod -- have been afflicted with bacterial leaf spot. It doesn't kill the trees, but the leaves eventually turn yellow and drop.
So far, the disorder has been confined to commercial nurseries, but the disease can spread in wind-driven rain, and if it does get out to residential gardens, the trees that are coveted for their brilliant blooms and trouble-free maintenance could be at risk. Florida is the country's second-largest producer of the trees, just behind Texas.
Gary Knox, an environmental horticulture professor at the university, said he's been working with crape myrtles for a long time, and when their susceptibility to disease is increased, "it's pretty signficant." He added that aside from rain, the disease is spread by overhead irrigation systems, and he said the problem is widespread. "I think you can safely say that nearly every crape myrtle producer would have the disease at this point," he said.
The scientists suggested that growers move to drip irrigation and limited use of chemicals to contain the disease.
Some varieties of crape myrtle have so far proven highly resistant to the disease, including Natchez, Osage, Fantasy, Basham's Party Pink and Miami. Field trials suggest that Carolina Beauty, Arapaho, Tuscarora, White Chocolate, Red Rocket and Rhapsody in Pink are susceptible to the disease.
This is pretty terrible news, so keep your fingers crossed that the growers get on the problem immediately.