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Myrica cerifera

Previously known as:

  • Morella cerifera
Description

Wax Myrtle is an evergreen tree that may grow 20 to 25 feet tall, but usually is much shorter. The light olive green leaves are alternate with a toothed margin, a spicy aromatic odor when crushed, and yellow resin dots on both surfaces. The bark is thin, smooth, and gray-brown, almost white. In spring, small male and female slim, cylindrical flowers mature. The small tree produces a bluish-white drupe that matures in clusters on short stalks and lasts through the winter. Some populations are dioecious and some are monoecious, which means that in some cases only the females produce fruit.

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. Native to NC marshes, forests, swamps, and fresh to brackish streams, Bayberry is useful in wetlands or restoration gardens, in wet or shady sites, or on a bank for erosion control. 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 tolerant of high winds, waterlogged soils, shade and sterile soil, salt spray and may be grown in seaside areas. Saline and urban tolerance make it appropriate for confinement within pavement and locations near roads that are salted in winter. This plant is subject to leaf drop during acclimatization or after extremely cold temperatures. Interesting plant for grouping in the corner of a large herb garden. Good selection for stream or pond margins where periodic flooding or drought may occur. Also attractive as a small tree with lower limbs removed.

These shrubs are most often dioecious and require both male and female-flowering for good berry production. 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.

Fire Risk:  These shrubs are considered to be potential fire hazards in some areas because the leaves, stems, and branches contain flammable aromatic compounds.  Because of this, they should not be planted within the defensible space of your home. Select plants with a low flammability rating for the sites nearest your home. 

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: No serious insect or disease problems. Leaf browning typically occurs in cold winters. Watch for leaf anthracnose and leaf mosaic.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Yellowish resin glands on underside of leaf
  • Sessile, gray fruits in clusters on 2nd year wood
  • Narrowly oblanceolate, attenuate leaves
  • Waxy fruits are highly aromatic
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#bees#fragrant#evergreen#fruit#deciduous#birds#songbirds#small spaces#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#showy#native tree#fragrant leaves#honey bees#aromatic#nectar plant#native shrub#salt tolerant#cover plant#winter interest#host plant#playground#host#coastal#hedges#wet sites#flooding#food source#highly beneficial coastal plants#salt spray tolerant#high flammability#NC native#buffer#deer resistant#fire risk#children's garden#native garden#urban conditions#fragrant fruit#non-showy flowers#screening#fantz#poor soils tolerant#wet soils#cover#food source fall
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#bees#fragrant#evergreen#fruit#deciduous#birds#songbirds#small spaces#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#showy#native tree#fragrant leaves#honey bees#aromatic#nectar plant#native shrub#salt tolerant#cover plant#winter interest#host plant#playground#host#coastal#hedges#wet sites#flooding#food source#highly beneficial coastal plants#salt spray tolerant#high flammability#NC native#buffer#deer resistant#fire risk#children's garden#native garden#urban conditions#fragrant fruit#non-showy flowers#screening#fantz#poor soils tolerant#wet soils#cover#food source fall
  • 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:
    New Jersey to Central America, Caribbean, NC
    Fire Risk Rating:
    high flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Waxmyrtle provides excellent winter and extreme weather cover. It is a host plant for the Red-Banded Hairstreak butterfly. Flowers provide an excellent source of nectar for honeybees and butterflies. 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:
    Buffer
    Fragrance
    Screening
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Waxmyrtle is highly salt and wind tolerant, and highly resistant to deer damage.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 20 ft. 0 in. - 25 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 8 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Deciduous
    Semi-evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Erect
    Irregular
    Multi-stemmed
    Multi-trunked
    Rounded
    Spreading
    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 pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasional Flooding
    Occasionally Dry
    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 Color:
    Blue
    Gray/Silver
    White
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Pollinated female flowers are followed by small attractive sessile clusters (2-6 fruits on previous season's growth) of tiny, globose, 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
    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). They are apetalous. Male flowers have multiple stames, while female flowers are a one-celled ovary.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Deciduous
    Semi-evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Rough
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Good Cut
    Good Dried
    Long-lasting
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblanceolate
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves of the waxmyrtle are alternate, simple, glossy, aromatic, narrowly obovate or oblanceolate, serrate at the apex, attenuate, olive green leaves (to 3-5” long) which are glabrous above and are dotted with tiny yellow resin glands on the bottom. The leaves, particularly the new growth, emit the distinctive bayberry candle fragrance when crushed.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    White
    Surface/Attachment:
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Grey-brown, almost white, with a thin, smooth surface.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Round
    Stem Description:
    Stems are rounded or angular and resin-dotted when young.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Naturalized Area
    Pond
    Recreational Play Area
    Riparian
    Small Space
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Native Garden
    Water Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Barrier
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Small Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Poor Soil
    Salt
    Urban Conditions
    Wet Soil
    Wind