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southern bayberry, southern wax-myrtle

candletree, candlewood, myrique de pennsylvanie, northern bayberry, small waxberry, swamp candleberry, tallow bayberry, tallowshrub, tallowtree, waxberry

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 rarely small trees, deciduous, rhizomatous, colonial, to 2(-4.5) m. Branchlets reddish brown and gland-dotted when young, becoming whitish gray in age, otherwise densely pilose; 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 aromatic when crushed, oblanceolate to elliptic, occasionally obovate, 2.5-6.5(-7.8) × 1.5-2.7 cm, usually membranous, less often leathery, base cuneate to attenuate, margins sometimes entire, usually serrate distal to middle, apex obtuse to rounded, sometimes acute, short-apiculate;

surfaces abaxially pale green, pilose on veins, moderately to densely glandular, adaxially dark green, pilose (especially along midrib), glandless or sparsely glandular;

glands yellow-brown.


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

staminate 0.4-1.8 cm; pistillate 0.3-1.4 cm.


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 shorter than staminal column, margins opaque, apically ciliate or completely glabrous, usually abaxially glabrous, occasionally densely pilose;

stamens mostly 3-4.

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 in fruit, 4, not accrescent or adnate to fruit wall, margins slightly ciliate or glabrous, abaxially usually densely gland-dotted;

ovary wall densely hirsute near apex, otherwise 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.

globose-ellipsoid, 3.5-5.5 mm;

fruit wall and warty protuberances hirsute, at least when young, hairs usually obscured by thick coat of white wax.

Myrica cerifera

Myrica pensylvanica

Phenology Flowering mid winter–spring, fruiting summer–fall. Flowering spring–early summer, fruiting late summer–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 dunes, pine barrens, pine-oak forests, old fields, bogs, edges of streams, ponds, and swamps
Elevation 0-450 m (0-1500 ft) 0-325 m (0-1100 ft)
from FNA
AL; AR; DE; FL; GA; LA; MD; MS; NC; NJ; OK; SC; TX; VA; Mexico; Central America; West Indies; Bermuda
[WildflowerSearch map]
from FNA

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.)

Where their ranges overlap, Myrica pensylvanica hybridizes quite readily with both M. cerifera and M. heterophylla. This ease of hybridization obviously contributes to an already complicated taxonomic situation; it is a matter for further field-based investigation.

(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. inodora
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 pensylvanica, M. cerifera var. frutescens, M. macfarlanei
Name authority Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 2: 1024. (1753) Mirbel: in H. Duhamel du Monceau et al., Traité Arbr. Arbust. Nouv. ed. 2: 190. (1804)
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