An apocryphal quirk of Texas history claims that we have the right to subdivide into five distinct states, and reading the headlines in Texas Monthly may have you thinking that we’re on the verge of such a pentamerous shattering. Troops are at the border. An internal civil war wages among state leadership. A few Republicans have even put a fatwa on on H-E-B Chairman Charles Butt.

But whatever lines may divide us, there is one core fact about Texas that should be able to heal any political schism, bridge any cultural divide, and unite us all under a single banner from El Paso to Texarkana: Texas has the absolute best official state flora and fauna.

I presume your mind’s eye is already fluttering with visions of roadside bluebonnets (the state flower) or prickly pear (our well-deserved state plant) as you nod in agreement. Slap a picture of an armadillo or a longhorn on a T‑shirt and you can travel the globe with confidence that our official state mammals (small and large, respectively) will clearly identify you as a resident or fan of the Lone Star State. Try to do that with New York’s state animal, and your proud beaver will likely just have you mistaken as a Buc‑ee’s patron. Yet there is one item that deserves to be struck from our list of official state notables as it tarnishes the rest of this noble menagerie: the crape myrtle, our official state shrub.

First of all, the crape myrtle isn’t a shrub. It isn’t even an arbusto, as George W. Bush might put it. The myrtle is quite clearly a tree—one that grows in an inelegant tangle of oft-gnarled trunks. Pedants may argue that the crape’s hydra of stems technically qualify it as a shrub. But they’re wrong. Shrubs are low to the ground with a consistent consolidation of verdancy. Trees are tall and skinny with leaves at the top. So who are you going to believe, some wordcel nerd or your lying eyes? The myrtle is a tree, and we already have a state tree, one so obviously Texan that SpongeBob SquarePants joked about it in a Texas-themed episode. (Peas-in-a-can pie, anyone?) So, too, do we have a far superior state native shrub, the Texas sage, in addition to our two state peppers—jalapeño and the native chiltepin—both of which also grow on shrubs.

If you were to pick a nonnative shrub to celebrate, the obvious answer would be the azalea, with its annual blooms that transform generic hedges into rows of pinks and purples and whites, as if nature had broken out her pack of highlighters. There’s a reason why our largest city, Houston, has been proudly designated an “azalea city,” while its cultural high society has hosted an azalea trail tour of the elite River Oaks neighborhood almost every year since 1935. East Texas also has its own native azalea, the white Rhododendron oblongifolium, and Tyler’s azalea trail has been described as a floral wonderland. No gardening club would stoop to something as grotesque as a crape myrtle trail, unless they were toting around leaf blowers to deal with the trees’ prolific, if largely useless, buds.

So why is the crape on the list? Is there some forgotten tall tale about Pecos Bill wrangling a rattlesnake under a crape myrtle? Did Sam Houston once nap under such a tree while living with the Cherokee? No. It isn’t even native. The tree is from China and Korea.

According to the 1997 official concurrent resolution declaring the crape myrtle as the official shrub of Texas, the wife of a Confederate general introduced the tree to the North Texas town of Paris, where it had played a role in beautification projects and centennial celebrations. The crape myrtle was also used to decorate a stretch of highway between the town and the Oklahoma border. (As if the experience of entering Oklahoma weren’t miserable enough.)

Perhaps this thin heritage could be justified if the myrtle were simply a nice tree. It isn’t. The branches grow in a scraggly discord while shedding crusts of bark throughout the year like some arboreal dandruff. The year-round blooms may add summer color even during the most dire heat wave—but that also means the buds pile on sidewalks and clog up pool drains at a scorching time of year, when other foliage is kind enough to leave homeowners with minimal maintenance beyond watering. And it is known more for spreading pests and disease than supporting local wildlife. Yes, the crape myrtle does thrive in our heat and drought. But so do the Mexican plum (a Texas native), the vitex, and the loquat, the last of which at least provides delicious spring fruits. The myrtle just makes a mess.

Perhaps the greatest sin is not in the myrtles, but ourselves. I will admit that crape myrtles do develop some appeal if well tended and allowed to grow so that their blooms transform into thirty-foot-tall pink lollipops, like something Dr. Seuss’s Once-ler would turn into a Thneed. But Texans have no idea how to care for the prolific tree, which has become a go-to for developers and landscape crews eager to impress with a low-maintenance arboreal addition. All you have to do is chop off the branches each Valentine’s Day. “Crape myrtle massacre” is what the professionals call it. Lawn crews give the trees a horizontal buzz cut befitting a newly enlisted army grunt: straight across the top.

The idea is that this harsh pruning will spur the myrtle into producing vigorous tendrils of growth that will form into a colorful skyward brush. In reality, they often instead end up with spindly stems and a scarred trunk, providing little joy to the eye and a busy job for leaf blowers and pool filters when they drop their buds.

As Greg Grant, author of The Southern Heirloom Garden, put it, “This practice may look appropriate behind a chain link fence in a Mississippi trailer park, but I can assure you it is not appropriate for any landscape that you intend to be admired.”

So here’s my advice on maintaining the myrtle: the best time to prune is whenever your saw is sharp. And the best way to prune it is to the stump. As for landscapers and homeowners: Stop planting crape myrtles. You can do better. And for our lawmakers who elevated this aggravating growth to the Lone Star Olympus: Please remove this ill-considered designation that drags down our state by associating the great Texas name with such a terrible plant.

I’m speaking to you, Governor Abbott. If you love Texas, if you have pride in Texas plants, if you desire clean and beautiful neighborhoods, then go to the floor of the Legislature and tell lawmakers to change this undeserved state moniker. Governor Abbott: tear down this tree.