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southern bayberry, southern wax-myrtle

candleberry, odorless bayberry, odorless wax-myrtle, scentless bayberry, waxberry, waxtree

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, to 7 m. Branchlets reddish brown and gland-dotted when young, glands colorless to white.

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 lacking odor when crushed, oblong-obovate to elliptic, 3.5-10.5(-11.8) × 1.4-3.7(-4.4) cm, leathery, base attenuate to cuneate, margins entire, rarely serrate distally, slightly revolute, apex acute to rounded;

surfaces abaxially pale green, glabrous, sometimes with a few scattered hairs, adaxially dark green, shiny, glabrous, both surfaces gland-dotted, pitted;

glands minute, colorless or white.


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

staminate 0.7-2.2 cm; pistillate 0.4-4(-5) cm.


unisexual, staminate and pistillate on different plants.

unisexual, staminate and pistillate on same 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, densely ciliate;

stamens mostly 6-10, as few as 3 in more distal flowers.

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 persistent, 4, obscure in fruit, not accrescent or adnate to fruit wall, glabrous except for ciliate margins;

ovary densely villous.


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, 4-8 mm;

fruit wall densely pubescent, obscured by enlarged, glandular protuberances and thin (usually) coat of white-gray wax.

Myrica cerifera

Myrica inodora

Phenology Flowering mid winter–spring, fruiting summer–fall. Flowering late winter–early spring, fruiting mid summer.
Habitat Bogs, edges of marshes, ponds, creeks, and swamps, pine forests, mixed deciduous forests, pine barrens, coastal sand dunes, open fields, sandy hillsides Coastal pineland swamps, swamp margins, bogs, pond edges, and stream banks
Elevation 0-450 m (0-1500 ft) 0-10 m (0-0 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.)

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. hartwegii, M. heterophylla, 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 Cerothamnus inodorus, Morella inodora, M. laureola, M. obovata
Name authority Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 2: 1024. (1753) W. Bartram: Travels Carolina, 403. (1791)
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