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#216940 - 06/19/2008 at 05:18 PM Origin of the name of the Crepe Myrtle tree
Kalar Offline
Member

Registered: 05/18/2008 at 06:53 PM
Posts: 263
Loc: West Central Mississippi
Had to share this info. It took a couple of hours of researching to piece this together....and it WAS a puzzle....because there was no definitive source for the correct name association or spelling. Is it Crepe or Crape and is it named for the bark or the blooms?

'Crepe' (and that is the correct spelling) is french and is from the latin 'crispa', meaning curled. The french crepe is very thin and flakey and is usually prepared with a filling and rolled up (curled)(but not always).

The Crepe Myrtle tree sheds a very thin, flakey, bark every year once it has matured and it curls after pulling away from the tree. The blooms are also thin and curly but they are not 'flakey'.

The reference to crepe paper is a later one because crepe paper got its name from the french word 'crepe' also... as in being curly and is only minimally connected to the 'thin' aspect.

I vote for the name coming from the way the bark sheds. But there is a minor connection to the curly (crepe) blooms.

So, like Forrest Gump said "Maybe both are true. Maybe both are happening at the same time."
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Kalar

"Make Known the Unknown."

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#217025 - 06/20/2008 at 02:14 AM Re: Origin of the name of the Crepe Myrtle tree [Re: Kalar]
Jiffymouse
Unregistered


good job

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#217052 - 06/20/2008 at 04:13 AM Re: Origin of the name of the Crepe Myrtle tree [Re: ]
Kalar Offline
Member

Registered: 05/18/2008 at 06:53 PM
Posts: 263
Loc: West Central Mississippi
 Originally Posted By: Jiffymouse
good job


Thanks. It was fun.

Just for the fun of it I emailed some 'official looking' websites that had info about Crepe Myrtles where they interchanged the spelling between Crepe and Crape and they touted the curly crepe-paper-like blooms as being the source of the name. I told them NO! that's not the way it is and "set 'em straight". Pretty impertinent and presumptuous of me, huh?

I had to give my email address in order to email them so it's gonna be interesting to see if I get any emails back.
_________________________
Kalar

"Make Known the Unknown."

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#217236 - 06/21/2008 at 02:06 AM Re: Origin of the name of the Crepe Myrtle tree [Re: Kalar]
Jiffymouse
Unregistered


i can't wait let us know, ok?

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#217313 - 06/21/2008 at 01:43 PM Re: Origin of the name of the Crepe Myrtle tree [Re: ]
Kalar Offline
Member

Registered: 05/18/2008 at 06:53 PM
Posts: 263
Loc: West Central Mississippi
 Originally Posted By: Jiffymouse
i can't wait let us know, ok?


Hey, Jiff,

There are a few interesting little updates to this saga. I managed to connect a few more dots and even add an interesting 'twist' to this whole thing. Let me line my ducks up here which will need to include some modification to what and/or how I stated some things above. This may get lengthy.

So far I've only received an email back from a female Horticulturist at Miss. State University. She says that Crape Myrtle and crapemyrtle are the correct common names and ways of writing it. She advised that it's always best to refer to a plant by its scientific name due to the variances common names can suffer over time. This launched me on even more of a search and I started with the origins of the word 'crepe' and the word 'crape' as well as the origins of the tree, the paper, and the fabric ("crape" was associated with a fabric). Here we go with a breakdown:

The tree, the fabric, and the paper all originated in China.

"Crepe" is a french word that has been used to identify a particular form of french pastry for over 800 years. Obviously far before the United States ever existed. It is taken from the Latin word "crispus" or "crispa" both of which refer to both "crisp" and "curled."

"Crape" is an Anglicized (English) version of the french word "Crepe" but its origins are associated with fabric that resembles crepe paper. In the 1800's "Crepe" fabric (crinkly/wavy texture like crepe paper) was one of just a few popular fabrics chosen for "mourning clothes" and, obviously, was always chosen in black. It was decided to change the spelling of the black fabric to "Crape" to distinguish it from other crepe fabrics that were inappropriate for mourning such as "Crepe de chine" which is a very thin version of the fabric. If the word "crape" was used, it was assumed to be regular black crepe.

My grandmother took 4 years of latin in college and was very big on tracing the origins of words and she was a big reader, too. Anyway, she always referred to the tree as the Crepe Myrtle and always told me that it was due to the look and behavior of the shedding bark. It's both "crisp" and "curled" which tracks with the translations of the french word and the latin.

An interesting twist that popped into my head while I was cutting up a red potato to boil for supper last night is that it's highly possible that someone, somewhere made a connection to the "mourning cloth" called "crape" and the fact that the tree "weeps." I'll bet a dollar to a doughnut that's how the common name got skewed somewhere along the line.

In the south, mourning was a big deal and there were obviously a lot of Crepe Myrtles around. I can see some gentle southern ladies sitting in a lovely garden with Crepe Myrtles around while commiserating on the death of a loved one and commenting that even the trees were weeping. Hence "crape" being adopted for the tree. Maybe that's just my warped mind but it seems clear as a bell to me.

In one article about the tree, I read that the "correct" common name of the tree is making a comeback "to its roots"...coming back to "Crepe."

So there that is. As far as I'm concerned the "official" common name is Crepe Myrtle and its name references the bark. Although the other applications to blooms and to the "weeping" can have a place in the whole scheme of things because they indirectly relate and even moreso because they're interesting.
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Kalar

"Make Known the Unknown."

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#217402 - 06/21/2008 at 09:22 PM Re: Origin of the name of the Crepe Myrtle tree [Re: Kalar]
Jiffymouse
Unregistered


way to do your homework! being southern myself, and raised with grandparents and great-grandparents in the house, i can understand the whole crepe/crape thing. and i don't know if you remember, but white and light colored cotton crepe fabric was very popular and very cheap to purchase in the 70's and a lot of clothing was made out of it (i had a favorite halter shirt with a "cape" made from white cotton crepe). and i do agree to a point with the horticulturalist at miss. state about the latin names. until you get to one like trandescantia which is another whole topic by itself!

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#217427 - 06/21/2008 at 11:10 PM Re: Origin of the name of the Crepe Myrtle tree [Re: ]
Kalar Offline
Member

Registered: 05/18/2008 at 06:53 PM
Posts: 263
Loc: West Central Mississippi
 Originally Posted By: Jiffymouse
way to do your homework! being southern myself, and raised with grandparents and great-grandparents in the house, i can understand the whole crepe/crape thing. and i don't know if you remember, but white and light colored cotton crepe fabric was very popular and very cheap to purchase in the 70's and a lot of clothing was made out of it (i had a favorite halter shirt with a "cape" made from white cotton crepe). and i do agree to a point with the horticulturalist at miss. state about the latin names. until you get to one like trandescantia which is another whole topic by itself!


I don't remember anything at all about crepe fabric. Even though I'm female, I was never big on clothes as a youngster. I had the occasional 'favorite' item and every time I classified something as such, something happened to it. I gave up having 'favorites.'

I reckon I'm gonna have to get me some 'trandescantia.' (Virginia Spiderwort a.k.a. Widow's Tears) "It is a welcome addition to the woodland garden with dappled shade, or anyplace hard to grow other plants. It grows well even in clay and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds." I think I saw some other versions, too. Pretty blooms.

I'll be waiting for your "topic by itself" on the transdescantia.
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Kalar

"Make Known the Unknown."

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#217431 - 06/21/2008 at 11:26 PM Re: Origin of the name of the Crepe Myrtle tree [Re: Kalar]
Kalar Offline
Member

Registered: 05/18/2008 at 06:53 PM
Posts: 263
Loc: West Central Mississippi
Uh oh! I tried searching for the meaning of trandescantia and couldn't get anything but dicussion or sale of particular plants. However, I happened to notice at the top of the results page a question that Google proffered: "Did you mean tradescantia?" (No 'n') Well, why not. I clicked on it! Voila! It came up with all sorts of links to both meaning and plants. I immediately said to myself "Oh No!!" I cut that off at the pass. I've used myself up for a little while. I need a rest.
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Kalar

"Make Known the Unknown."

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#217440 - 06/21/2008 at 11:46 PM Re: Origin of the name of the Crepe Myrtle tree [Re: Kalar]
Jiffymouse
Unregistered


sorry to send you off on a new tangent! one of the women who works in my building has a degree in botany, we had that discussion about latin names for plants!

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#217462 - 06/22/2008 at 01:40 AM Re: Origin of the name of the Crepe Myrtle tree [Re: ]
Kalar Offline
Member

Registered: 05/18/2008 at 06:53 PM
Posts: 263
Loc: West Central Mississippi
 Originally Posted By: Jiffymouse
sorry to send you off on a new tangent! one of the women who works in my building has a degree in botany, we had that discussion about latin names for plants!


Glad I could provide a chuckle.
_________________________
Kalar

"Make Known the Unknown."

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#217601 - 06/22/2008 at 03:19 PM Re: Origin of the name of the Crepe Myrtle tree [Re: Kalar]
Kalar Offline
Member

Registered: 05/18/2008 at 06:53 PM
Posts: 263
Loc: West Central Mississippi
I was sitting on my patio this morning "contemplating" the back yard. My eyes came to rest on my Crepe Myrtle tree and a teensy thought slid into the back of my mind. I went over to the tree and it still has a little bit of shedding bark clinging to it so I picked some off...not sure why I was doing that. As I stood there examining it, it hit me. By George, Kalar, you are sloooowwww on the uptake. This stuff FEELS LIKE CREPE PAPER!!! It really really does!! It's as thin as crepe paper and wrinkly like crepe paper and it feels like crepe paper and it curls like crepe paper and it's as thin and crispy and curled as french crepes.

For my part it's the final nail in the coffin of the dreaded crApe!!



Edited by Kalar (06/22/2008 at 03:21 PM)
Edit Reason: change a sentence
_________________________
Kalar

"Make Known the Unknown."

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