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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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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Friday - January 29, 2010

From: Myrtle Beach, SC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Should wax myrtle (Morella cerifera) wood be burned in a fireplace
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Pants, Could you please tell me if Wax Myrtle is a hardwood or softwood? Our neighbor had to cut down his as they had grown into trees from the previous owners. We would like to burn the wood in our fireplace, but won't if it is a softwood-don't want to have creosote build up!

ANSWER:

It is not so much a matter of whether the wood is soft or hard, but what chemical components the sap contains.  The US Forest Service species information for Morella cerifera [syn. Myrica cerifera] (wax myrtle) says: "The stems and foliage of southern bayberry contain large amounts of aromatic compounds that are quite flammable, making it a potential fire hazard."  The berries of the wax myrtle have a visible wax on them that is used to make candles by boiling the berries.  The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service under yet another synonym for the plant, Myrica pusilla, says: "Members of the wax myrtle family have resinous dots on their leaves and the leaves are aromatic."  So, given the above information, you would probably be wise not to burn the wood in your fireplace.

 

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