Spelling – Plant Names

Q: Is the correct spelling for the common summer plant “crepe myrtle” or “crape myrtle”?

A: It’s a bit more complicated than you think. Any author attempts to be consistent in spelling and grammar for their work; it would be confusing for their readers otherwise. In my case, I use Dr. Michael Dirr’s “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants” when I need guidance in spelling a plant’s name. He, and almost all horticultural professionals, spell it as one word: “crapemyrtle”. There are reasons for this but the explanation is too complicated for a quick newspaper read. Bottom line: I spell it “crapemyrtle”.

In another example, when I write about lawns, I always use the word “bermudagrass” to refer to the common lawn grass because that’s how professional horticulturists spell it. Newspaper editors consult their own style guides for spelling, so they spell it “Bermuda grass”, even though the grass has nothing to do with the island of Bermuda. Happily, this is not a big deal for me. I have a more detailed explanation of horticultural spelling at http://www.walterreeves.com/landscaping/crapemyrtle-crape-myrtle-crepe-myrtle-which-is-correct/.

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