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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - November 04, 2009

From: Round Rock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: How can I distinguish between Wax Myrtle and Dwarf Wax Myrtle?
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I need help identifying between a southern wax myrtle and a dwarf wax myrtle. I am after the bigger type and think my landscaper accidentally put in dwarves. How can I tell? I had 8 put in and their leaves are different, some serrate, some smooth, some narrower with no serrate while others are wider with serration.

ANSWER:

In the past, some botanical authorities considered Dwarf Wax Myrtle to be a botanical variety of Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) or Southern Wax Myrtle.  However, in recent years most botanists have come to realize that plants commonly called Dwarf Wax Myrtle are, in varying degrees, simply dwarf forms of Morella cerifera.  Many shrubby plant species tend to produce a wide range of plant sizes and growth habits.

Leaf serration and other visible characteristics are not always reliable indicators of form or ultimate size, but in general, the smaller the leaf, the smaller the plant tends to be.

Realizing this may not be a viable solution for you, the best way to ensure all plants are essentially the same is to asexually propagate one that has the desired characteristics.  For Wax Myrtle, propagation by cuttings or one of the methods of propagation by layering would be preferred.

 

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