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southern bayberry, southern wax-myrtle

mountain wax myrtle, Sierra bayberry, Sierra sweet-bay

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, deciduous, to 1.8 m. Branchlets purple-black, gland-dotted, glands yellow.

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 oblanceolate to elliptic, 3.2-10.4 × 1-3.4 cm, membranous, base attenuate to cuneate, margins serrate, often coarsely so, with 4-12 pairs of teeth in ± distal 1/2 of blade, rarely entire, apex acute to occasionally obtuse;

surfaces abaxially pale green, pilose, adaxially dark green, pilose, often glabrate, both surfaces gland-dotted, density quite variable;

glands yellow to orange.


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

staminate 0.8-2.6 cm; pistillate 3-6 mm at anthesis, enlarging to 2 cm in fruit.


unisexual, staminate and pistillate on different plants.

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 longer than stamens, gland-dotted at base, distal margins transparent, occasionally ciliate;

stamens 3-5.

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.

bracteoles 2, accrescent and adnate to base of fruit wall, laterally compressed, densely pilose with some hairs persistent, especially toward apex, glandular;

ovary glabrous.


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.

ovoid, flattened, 1.5-2.5 mm;

fruit wall smooth, without waxy deposits, enclosed by spongy bracteoles.

Myrica cerifera

Myrica hartwegii

Phenology Flowering mid winter–spring, fruiting summer–fall. Flowering spring–summer, fruiting in summer.
Habitat Bogs, edges of marshes, ponds, creeks, and swamps, pine forests, mixed deciduous forests, pine barrens, coastal sand dunes, open fields, sandy hillsides Borders of streams
Elevation 0-450 m (0-1500 ft) 250-1800 m (800-5900 ft)
from FNA
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.)

Myrica hartwegii is endemic to the northern and central Sierra Nevada of California.

(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. californica, M. cerifera, M. gale, 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 hartwegii
Name authority Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 2: 1024. (1753) S. Watson: Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts 10: 350. (1875)
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