Thursday, October 8, 2009

Southern Bayberry

Sometimes I struggle with an ID. Conflicting properties... My own wish for it to be what it "should be"... Southern Bayberry, aka Wax-myrtle, Myrica cerifera, is most often found only as far north as New Jersey, although there are reports from Rhode Island and Southern Massachuestts.

Golden resin dots on leaf undersides are common to all Myrica species.

Resin dots on the leaf's topside are specific to M. cerifera. I found this piece of information consistent across my library. I needed to be sure because it became the crux of my ID. I really wanted this species to be M. pennsylvanica, one truly local to my area.

A couple of snips from Wikipedia:

"Myrica cerifera finds use in gardening and horticulture. It has been commonly purported to grow in American hardiness zones of 11 to 7b. However, this is an old, conservative estimate; in recent years, plants have performed well along the east coast as far north as zone 6b in northern Rhode Island. M. pensylvanica substitutes for M. cerifera in areas colder than zone 6."

"Southern Bayberry's fruits are a traditional source of the wax for those old-fashioned Christmas decorations called bayberry candles. The wax was extracted by boiling the berries, and skimming off the floating hydrocarbons. The fats were then boiled again and then strained. After that the liquid was usable in candle making, whether through dipping or molding."

"Myrica cerifera." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 29 Sep 2009, 21:46 UTC. 7 Oct 2009 <>.

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