Botanical Name: Morella cerifera, syn. Myrica cerifera
Common Name: Wax Myrtle, Southern Bayberry, Southern Wax Myrtle, Eastern Bayberry, Bayberry, Candleberry, Tallow Shrub
Description: Wax Myrtle is commonly found in hammocks, swamps, cypress domes, flatwoods, upland mixed forests, and fresh to slightly brackish marshes throughout Florida. It quickly grows 6-12′ tall. Very old specimens can reach 20′. Left to grow on its own, it makes a multi-trunked, evergreen shrub. However, it can be limbed up to a tree-form.
Glossy, aromatic, oblanceolate, olive green leaves (to 3-5” long) are dotted with tiny yellow resin glands. Leaves, particularly the new growth, emit the distinctive bayberry candle fragrance when crushed. Flowers are fragrant but non-showy, with only the flowers on male plants (catkins to 1” long) displaying some color (a drab yellowish-green). Flowers bloom in late winter to early spring. Pollinated female flowers are followed by small attractive clusters of tiny, globose, blue-gray fruits which mature in late summer to fall, with persistence through winter. Each fruit is surrounded by an aromatic waxy substance.
It is easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in sun, part sun, or part shade. This shrub is tolerant of high winds, waterlogged soils, part shade and sterile soil, salt spray, and may be grown in seaside areas. Good selection for stream or pond margins where periodic flooding or drought may occur.
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. Birds eat the fruit. It provides cover for all types of wildlife. Is the host plant for banded hairstreak (Satyrium calanus) and red-banded hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops)butterflies. Is an excellent source of nectar for bees and butterflies. It is very deer resistant.
The fruits of this species have been used for many years to make bayberry candles, soaps and sealing wax.
Tolerant of occasional/brief inundation of salt water such as can occur in storm surges. Moderately tolerant of salty wind and may get some salt spray. Tolerant of brackish water.
This plant in 3-gallon containers is 2 – 3′ tall.
Plant Lore: The genus name Myrica means ‘fragrance’ in Greek. Crush its leaves to smell why it’s called that. Specific epithet means wax-bearing.
Florida Hardiness Zones 8 – 11