Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera)

Educational Story

The Wax Myrtle, Myrica cerifera, is a small shrub-like tree that has smooth, light grey twisted trunks with thin bark. It occurs throughout the southeastern coastal plain and the Caribbean.  It has short, narrow, leathery leaves with serrated edges that contain aromatic compounds. When the leaves are broken or bruised, they give off a spicy fragrance. Wax myrtle is dioecious, which means that it has separate male and female plants. The fruits are small, light green, and covered with a bluish-white wax, and they are an important food source for birds and other animals. Wax myrtle was commonly known as Candleberry because early American colonists used the fruit’s blue waxy coating to make scented bayberry candles. It occurs in a wide range of ecosystem but prefers wet areas or transition zones (ecotones) between wet and drier areas. Wax myrtle roots have nodules that harbor a symbiotic species of  actinomycotal fungus, which fixes nitrogen at a faster rate than rhizobial bacteria in legumes.

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Gardening Facts

Scientific Name: Myrica cerifera
Common Name: Wax Myrtle, Southern Waxmytrle, Southern Bayberry, or Candleberry
Description of facts and concepts: Fragrant flowers
Seed or division information: Seeds or Semi-hardwood cuttings
Date of flower’s bloom (Month and week): Spring
Ecoregion: Widely adaptable to many habitats through its range, prefers mesic or wet sites.
Color of Flower: Green, gray-green waxy berry
Height: 15 – 25 feet
Spread: 20 – 25 feet
Family: Myricaceae
Soil Type: Base to Acidic Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil: Dry to Wet Moist
Light: Sun to Shade Part shade, part sun, full shade
Zone 6A-11B