Shrub or tree to 20 m, often multistemmed. Bark peeling in strips and plates, shades of reddish brown and whitish. Branchlets somewhat terete, reddish or yellowish brown, glabrous. Leaves deciduous, 8–10 × 2.3–5 cm, oblong to ovate, leathery, both surfaces largely glabrous, but for occasional tuft of hair in vein axils below, 8–13 secondary veins on each side of midrib, apex obtuse; petiole 0.8–1 cm long. Panicles 5–10 cm long, slightly narrower than long, densely flowered, glabrous. Flowers 6-merous; calyx tube cup-shaped with 12 nerves; petals small, white; stamens 30–36, bright yellow. Ohwi 1965. Distribution JAPAN: Kyushu, Yakushima. Habitat Riparian, warm temperate forests. USDA Hardiness Zone (6–)7. Conservation status Not evaluated (though rare on Yakushima). Illustration NT431, NT432. Taxonomic note This species is closely related to L. subcostata and might be better represented as a subspecies.
As seen at the JC Raulston Arboretum, which has become the locus classicus for the species, Lagerstroemia fauriei is one of the most desirable of recent tree introductions. Here there are large trees, with multiple stems that show off their prime feature, the glorious mottled red and white peeling bark – among the finest of all patterned barks. The trunks rise straight up to a broad system of wide-spreading branches, supporting a dense canopy of leaves: individuals are often wider than they are tall. This is a beautiful medium-sized shade tree, and is suitable for street planting as well as in gardens (Gilman & Watson 1993b). The foliage is an unexceptional mid-green, turning yellow before falling. The flowers are white, and while much smaller and less showy than those of L. indica, a tree in full bloom in early summer is still an attractive sight.
Lagerstroemia fauriei was introduced to cultivation in 1957, having been collected as seed on Yakushima by John L. Creech, and then cultivated at the US National Arboretum (Dirr 1998, Aniśko 2006). The JCRA trees are from this introduction, distributed to the North Carolina State University. Two clones have been named from here: ‘Townhouse’ (from its position in the ‘townhouse’ demonstration garden), with dark reddish bark of exceptional quality (Raulston 1993, Dirr 1998), and ‘Fantasy’, which has lighter-coloured bark. They deserve wide planting, especially as the species is considerably hardier than L. indica, flourishing on the East Coast at least as far north as the Philadelphia area (a 14-year-old ‘Townhouse’ at the Scott Arboretum has reached 6 m), and worth trying as far north as Boston (A. Bunting, pers. comm. 2006). It appears to be tolerant of most soil types and is very drought-resistant, as well as being immune to most pests and diseases (Gilman & Watson 1993b).
The hardiness and resistance to powdery mildew of L. fauriei have been passed in varying degrees to its offspring with L. indica, including ‘Muskogee’ (lavender-pink), ‘Natchez’ (white), ‘Tuscarora’ (deep coral) and numerous others. In many cases these also have excellent bark.