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southern bayberry, southern wax-myrtle

California wax-myrtle, Pacific bayberry, Pacific wax myrtle, western wax myrtle

Habit Shrubs or small trees, evergreen, often forming large, rhizomatous colonies of much-branched specimens, to 14 m. Branchlets reddish brown, densely gland-dotted when young, otherwise glabrous to densely pilose, eventually glabrate; glands yellow. Shrubs or small trees, evergreen, 2-10 m. Branchlets green when young, becoming red-brown, eventually black to gray with age, densely gland-dotted, glands colorless to black, pilose to villous, ultimately glabrous.

blade aromatic when crushed, linear-oblanceolate to obovate, (1.1-)2-10.5(-13.3) × 0.4-3.3 cm, leathery, base cuneate to attenuate, margins entire or coarsely serrate beyond middle, apex acute to slightly rounded;

surfaces abaxially pale yellow-green, glabrous except for pilose midrib, adaxially dark green, glabrous to pilose, both surfaces densely glandular;

glands yellow to orange.

blade fragrant when crushed, narrowly elliptic to elliptic-oblanceolate, 4-13 × 0.7-3.1 cm, sometimes membranous, more commonly leathery, base cuneate-attenuate, margins variable, from nearly entire (less common) to remotely and coarsely serrate entire length of blade, apex acute;

surfaces abaxially pale green, adaxially dark green, shiny, both surfaces gland-dotted;

glands colorless to black, considerably more dense abaxially, midrib pilose to glabrate adaxially.


staminate 0.4-1.9 cm; pistillate 0.3-1.5 cm.

staminate 0.6-1.7(-2.5) cm;

bisexual 0.6-1.9(-3) cm;

flowers bisexual, staminate, or pistillate within any 1 spike.


unisexual, staminate and pistillate on different plants.

Staminate flowers

bract of flower shorter than staminal column, margins opaque, densely ciliate, abaxially densely gland-dotted;

stamens mostly 3-4.

bract of flower shorter than staminal column, margins opaque and densely ciliate;

stamens (2-)6-12(-22).

Pistillate flowers

bracteoles persistent in fruit, 4, not accrescent or adnate to fruit wall, margins ciliate, abaxially densely gland-dotted;

ovary glandular, especially at apex near style base.


globose-ellipsoid, 2-3.5(-4) mm;

fruit wall glabrous or sparsely glandular when young, obscured by enlarged protuberances and thick coat of blue-white wax.

globose-ellipsoid, 4-6.5 mm;

fruit wall glabrate to sparsely villous, obscured by enlarged, glabrous protuberances, with or without light to very heavy coat of white wax.


and bisexual flowers: bracteoles usually persistent in fruit, 4-6, not accrescent or adnate to fruit wall, margins ciliate;

stamens 1-5, in bisexual flowers hypogynous, free or often adnate to ovary, especially near styles;

ovary ± villous, especially at apex.

Myrica cerifera

Myrica californica

Phenology Flowering mid winter–spring, fruiting summer–fall. Flowering spring–early summer, fruiting summer–early fall.
Habitat Bogs, edges of marshes, ponds, creeks, and swamps, pine forests, mixed deciduous forests, pine barrens, coastal sand dunes, open fields, sandy hillsides Coastal conifer forests, bogs, sand dunes, stream banks, wet meadows, marshes, low, moist hillsides
Elevation 0-450 m (0-1500 ft) 0-1000 m (0-3300 ft)
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AL; AR; DE; FL; GA; LA; MD; MS; NC; NJ; OK; SC; TX; VA; Mexico; Central America; West Indies; Bermuda
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Myrica cerifera is an extremely variable species with respect to habitat and corresponding habit/vegetative morphology. In general, plants that occupy dry, sandy (more xeric) areas tend to be strongly rhizomatous, colonial, and smaller in stature, and to possess smaller leaves (commonly recognized as M. cerifera var. pumila). In contrast, plants of more mesic areas are seldom rhizomatous, not colonial, and often large and treelike, and they have larger leaves. These "extremes pass insensibly into each other" (J. W. Thieret 1966). I agree with Thieret's contention that these differences do not constitute reliable criteria upon which one should base taxonomic distinctions. Until it can be determined with certainty whether these differences are due to genetics or environment, the question will remain open. I have chosen the conservative route.

Myrica cerifera has often been confused with M. pensylvanica and with M. heterophylla. It is distinguished from M. pensylvanica on the basis of gland density on the leaves, the presence of glands versus hirsute pubescence on the fruit wall and protuberances (especially visible on young fruits), and less reliably on the size of the fruit (2-3.5 versus 3.5-5.5 mm). Myrica cerifera is distinguished from M. heterophylla by the density of the glands on the leaves and the glandular versus glabrous (usually) fruit wall.

Native Americans used a decoction of the leaves and stems of Myrica cerifera to treat fevers; and roots, to treat inflamed tonsils and stomachaches, and as a stimulant (D. E. Moerman 1986).

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

On any one branchlet, staminate inflorescences are borne proximal to bisexual inflorescences; the most distal inflorescences may be completely pistillate.

It is quite common for two or three pistillate or bisexual flowers to occur per bract and for the ovaries to fuse to form a syncarp. In the fruiting condition this can usually be detected by counting the number of style branches (two per ovary, therefore four for a syncarp derived from two fused ovaries). Many specimens apparently do not produce any wax, in which case the fruits appear purple-black rather than white.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Source FNA vol. 3. FNA vol. 3.
Parent taxa Myricaceae > Myrica Myricaceae > Myrica
Sibling taxa
M. californica, M. gale, M. hartwegii, M. heterophylla, M. inodora, M. pensylvanica
M. cerifera, M. gale, M. hartwegii, M. heterophylla, M. inodora, M. pensylvanica
Synonyms Cerophora lanceolata, Cerothamnus arborescens, Cerothamnus ceriferus, Cerothamnus pumilus, Morella cerifera, M. cerifera var. angustifolia, M. cerifera var. arborescens, M. cerifera var. dubia, M. cerifera var. pumila, M. pumila, M. pusilla Gale californica
Name authority Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 2: 1024. (1753) Chamisso: Linnaea 6: 535. (1831)
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