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Candleberry Myrica cerifera

Other plants called Candleberry:

Previously known as:

  • Morella cerifera
Phonetic Spelling
mur-EYE-kuh sur-IFF-ur-uh
Description

Wax myrtle is a broadleaf evergreen shrub or tree in the bayberry family (Myricaceae) that may grow 20 to 25 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide, but usually is much shorter. Native to the United States from New Jersey to Central America and the Caribbean, it is winter hardy to USDA Zones 7 through 10 but only semi-evergreen in the northern zones.

Wax myrtle is easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun to dappled or partial shade. It even grows in the elusive dry 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. Wax myrtle usually requires both male and female plants for good berry production. The shrub tends to sucker, sometimes forming sizable colonies in optimum growing conditions. It is tolerant of high winds, sterile soil and salt spray and may be grown in seaside areas.

Wax myrtle is quite versatile in the landscape. Saline and urban tolerance make it appropriate for confinement within pavement and locations near roads that are salted in winter. It is an interesting plant for grouping in the corner of a large herb, native, winter, children’s, butterfly or pollinator garden. It is also a good selection for stream or pond margins where periodic flooding or drought may occur or on a bank for erosion control. Use it as a barrier, privacy hedge or attractive small tree with lower limbs removed. The plant can be pruned, but keep in mind that next season's fruit will appear on old growth.

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. 

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.

Insects, Diseases and Other Plant Problems: No serious insect or disease problems. This plant is subject to leaf drop during acclimatization or after extremely cold temperatures. Leaf browning also typically occurs in cold winters. Watch for leaf anthracnose and leaf mosaic.

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Woodland Backyard Garden Walk
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#fragrant#evergreen#deciduous#small spaces#drought tolerant#native tree#fragrant leaves#honey bees#nectar plant#native shrub#salt tolerant#cover plant#winter interest#showy fruits#highly beneficial coastal plants#salt spray tolerant#fire high flammability#fire extreme flammability#NC native#buffer#deer resistant#children's garden#native garden#playground plant#non-showy flowers#fragrant fruits#screening#fantz#poor soils tolerant#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#urban conditions tolerant#wet soils tolerant#bird friendly#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#flood tolerant#bee friendly#Audubon#red-banded hairstreak butterfly#dry shade#coastal plant#hedge#wildlife friendly#cpp
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#fragrant#evergreen#deciduous#small spaces#drought tolerant#native tree#fragrant leaves#honey bees#nectar plant#native shrub#salt tolerant#cover plant#winter interest#showy fruits#highly beneficial coastal plants#salt spray tolerant#fire high flammability#fire extreme flammability#NC native#buffer#deer resistant#children's garden#native garden#playground plant#non-showy flowers#fragrant fruits#screening#fantz#poor soils tolerant#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#urban conditions tolerant#wet soils tolerant#bird friendly#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#flood tolerant#bee friendly#Audubon#red-banded hairstreak butterfly#dry shade#coastal plant#hedge#wildlife friendly#cpp
  • 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. This plant was also used to make medicine by Native Americans.
    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
    Perennial
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant 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:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Sand
    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
    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. Fruits are present from August through October. Yellow-rumped warblers (Dendroica coronata) and tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) can digest the wax on the fruits and are important seed dispersers of wax myrtle.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    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 stamens, while female flowers are a one-celled ovary. Flowers bloom in April. Male and female flowers are usually on separate plants, but sometimes a plant produces both male and female flowers or bisexual flowers.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant 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:
    Gray-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:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Shade Garden
    Water Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Barrier
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Small Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Poor Soil
    Salt
    Urban Conditions
    Wet Soil
    Wind