Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Morella cerifera

Wax myrtle , Southern wax myrtle, Southern bayberry, Eastern bayberry, Bayberry, Candleberry, Tallow shrub

Myricaceae (Bayberry Family)

Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle )
Marcus, Joseph A.
A wispy, 6-12 ft., multi-trunked, evergreen shrub, southern bayberry or wax myrtle can reach 20 ft. in height. The light olive-green foliage has a spicy fragrance. Pale blue berries occur on female plants in the winter. Handsome gray bark is almost white on some plants.

Native from New Jersey west to eastern Oklahoma and east Texas, south through Mexico to Central America as well as through much of the Caribbean, this popular evergreen ornamental is used for screens, hedges, landscaping, wetland gardens, habitat restoration, and as a source of honey. Essentially a shrub, it serves as an excellent screen plant, with both standard and dwarf varieties available. Because there are separate male and female plants, if you want berries you must have male plants close enough to the berry-producing female plants for pollination to occur. The leaves are aromatic, with an appealing, piquant fragrance when crushed. Colonists separated the fruits waxy covering in boiling water to make fragrant-burning candles, a custom still followed in some countries.

Image Gallery:

19 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Oblanceolate
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous
Leaf Margin: Entire
Leaf Apex: Acute
Leaf Texture: Waxy
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Dioecious
Inflorescence: Spike
Size Notes: 6-40 feet tall, but normally no higher than 12 feet.
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Bluish white 2-3 mm
Size Class: 6-12 ft. , 12-36 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Green
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr


USA: AL , AR , DE , FL , GA , HI , LA , MD , MS , NJ , NC , OK , SC , TX , VA , WV
Native Distribution: New Jersey west to southeast Oklahoma and east Texas, south through Florida and the West Indies and through Mexico to Central America
Native Habitat: Moist forest; marshes; fresh to slightly brackish stream banks; swamps

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet , Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8) , Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Drought Tolerance: Medium
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Slightly acidic, moist, deep sands, loams, clays.
Conditions Comments: Requires constant moisture to get established, but both drought- and flood-tolerant once established. If temperature goes below zero degrees F, will defoliate, not releafing until spring. Tolerant of saline conditions and urban confinement within pavement.


Use Ornamental: A popular, evergreen screening shrub for residential landscapes.
Use Wildlife: Berries eaten by many species of birds (Wasowski and Wasowski 1994).
Use Other: Berries can be boiled down to use as candle wax.
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Red-Banded Hairstreak
Deer Resistant: Moderate

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Morella cerifera is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Banded Hairstreak
(Satyrium calanus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Red-banded Hairstreak
(Calycopis cecrops)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2016-01-13