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Wax myrtle, Southern Bayberry
Myrica cerifera

Copyright by: Chuck McCartney

General Landscape Uses: A versatile shrub or small tree in formal and informal landscapes, but it needs moist to wet soils to thrive. It can be used as an accent or specimen shrub, as a trimmed or informal hedge, or in mixed buffer plantings. Learn more about gardening with wax myrtle for birds and other wildlife in Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens.

Availability: Widely cultivated. Available in Lake Worth at Indian Trails Native Nursery (561-641-9488) and at Amelia's SmartyPlants (561-540-6296).

Description: Medium to large shrub or small tree with a narrow crown from crooked trunks. Bark pale gray. Leaves wax-covered, semi-deciduous, 1-4 inches long, aromatic when crushed.

Dimensions: Typically 8-15 feet in height in South Florida, but extremely variable; to 36 feet in Florida. Sometimes as broad as tall, especially when smaller.

Growth Rate: Moderate.

Range: Eastern and southeastern United States west to Texas and Oklahoma and south to the Monroe County Keys; Bermuda, West Indies, Mexico and Central America. In the Monroe County Keys, disjunct from the Miami-Dade County mainland and North Key Largo to the lower Keys. For a digitized image of Elbert Little's Florida range map, visit the Exploring Florida website.

Map of select IRC data from peninsular Florida.

Habitats: Swamps and forest edges.

Soils: Moist to wet, well-drained to poorly-drained sandy, limestone, or organic soils, usually with humusy top layer.

Nutritional Requirements: Moderate; can grow in nutrient poor soils, but needs some organic content to thrive.

Salt Water Tolerance: Low; does not tolerate long-term flooding by salt or brackish water.

Salt Wind Tolerance: Moderate; grows near salt water, but is protected from direct salt spray by other vegetation.

Drought Tolerance: Moderate; generally requires moist soils, but tolerant of short periods of drought once established.

Light Requirements: Full sun to light shade.

Flower Color: White.

Flower Characteristics: Inconspicuous catkins.

Flowering Season: All year; peak winter-spring.

Fruit: Small, waxy bluish drupe.

Wildlife and Ecology: Provides significant food and cover for wildlife. Larval host plant for red-banded hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) butterflies and io (Automeris io) moths. Yellow-rumped warblers, tree swallows and a wide variety of other birds feed on the fruit, which are particularly important to wintering birds just prior to their return migration.

Horticultural Notes: Can be grown from seed; usually cold stratified. Also can be grown from cuttings with difficulty.

Copyright by: Chuck McCartney

Copyright by: Wes Jurgens

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Copyright by: Don & Joyce Gann

Other data on Myrica cerifera available from:

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