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Myrica cerifera

Common Name(s):

Description

Morella cerifera, commonly known as southern wax myrtle or southern bayberry, is a large, irregularly-shaped, dense-branching, nitrogen-fixing, suckering, fast-growing, evergreen shrub (semi-evergreen in colder northern parts of the growing area) that typically grows to 10-15’ tall and 8-10’ wide, but occasionally reaches a tree-like height of 20’ tall or more. It is native to the southeastern U.S. from New Jersey to Florida through the Gulf States to Oklahoma and Texas and further south into Mexico and Central America. It is typically found in a variety of habitats including wetlands, river margins, sand dunes, pine barrens, hillsides, and upland forests.

The Waxmyrtle is winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-10 where it is easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. It does best when initially grown with constant moisture, but once established in the landscape it will grow in a wide range of soil conditions ranging from wet swampy areas to dry xeric uplands. This shrub is also tolerant of high winds and salt spray and may be grown in seaside areas. It fixes atmospheric nitrogen which helps it survive in poor soils. Shrubs tend to sucker, sometimes forming sizable colonies in optimum growing conditions. This shrub is similar to northern bayberry (M. pennsylvanica), but is, by contrast, a southern heat-loving evergreen species.

These shrubs are considered to be potential fire hazards in some areas because the leaves, stems, and branches contain flammable aromatic compounds.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: Leaf browning typically occurs in cold winters. Watch for leaf anthracnose and leaf mosaic.

Cultivars:
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#birds#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#showy#fragrant leaves#salt tolerant#winter interest#hedge#coastal#wet sites#deer resistant
Cultivars:
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#birds#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#showy#fragrant leaves#salt tolerant#winter interest#hedge#coastal#wet sites#deer resistant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Myrica
    Species:
    cerifera
    Family:
    Myricaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The fruits of this species have been used for many years to make bayberry candles, soaps and sealing wax.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Southeastern United States
    Wildlife Value:
    Waxmyrtle provides excellent winter and extreme weather cover. It is a host plant for the Red-Banded Hairstreak butterfly. The fruits are eaten by birds, especially yellow-rumped warbler (which are very efficient at digesting the waxy fruits) in the fall and winter.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Enhancement
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Waxmyrtle is highly salt and wind tolerant, and highly resistant to deer damage.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 10 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 8 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Deciduous
    Semi-evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Multi-stemmed
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Drainage:
    Frequent Standing Water
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Pollinated female flowers are followed by small attractive clusters of tiny, globose, blue-gray fruits that are each surrounded by an aromatic waxy substance. The fruits mature in fall and persist through winter. Birds eat the fruits in fall and winter, thus helping the plants to naturalize by disbursing the seed.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Winter
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers of the Waxmyrtle are fragrant but non-showy, with only the flowers on male plants (catkins to 1” long) displaying some color (a drab yellowish-green).
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Deciduous
    Semi-evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Rough
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Good Cut
    Good Dried
    Long-lasting
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves of the waxmyrtle are alternate, simple, glossy, aromatic, oblanceolate, olive green leaves (to 3-5” long) which are dotted with tiny yellow resin glands. The leaves, particularly the new growth, emit the distinctive bayberry candle fragrance when crushed.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Naturalized Area
    Riparian
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Native Garden
    Water Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Barrier
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Salt
    Wet Soil
    Wind