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Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle) | NPIN
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Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle)
Marcus, Joseph A.

Morella cerifera

Morella cerifera (L.) Small

Wax myrtle, Southern bayberry, Candleberry

Myricaceae (Bayberry Family)

Synonym(s): Cerothamnus ceriferus, Cerothamnus pumilus, Morella cerifera var. pumila, Myrica cerifera, Myrica cerifera var. pumila, Myrica pusilla

USDA Symbol: MOCE2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), HI (I), PR (N)

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.

 

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
Flower:
Fruit: Bluish white 2-3 mm
Size Class: 6-12 ft. , 12-36 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Green
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr

Distribution

USA: AL , AR , DE , FL , GA , HI , LA , MD , MS , NC , NJ , 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: Moist , Wet
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.

Benefit

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

Propagation

Propagation Material: Seeds , Semi-hardwood Cuttings , Softwood Cuttings
Description: Sow seed outdoors in the fall or stratify. Wax myrtle will root from softwood or semi-hardwood cuttings taken in summer. Root cuttings, 2-3 in. long., can be make in early winter.
Seed Collection: Collect fruit in September or October. Leave waxy coating on during storage, but remove it prior to sowing or stratification. Remove in a solution of 1 t. lye to 1 gal. water. Store seeds in sealed, refrigerated containers.
Seed Treatment: Stratify in moist peat 60-90 days at 34-41 degrees. Many seeds have a waxy coat that prevents water uptake and stratification. Soaking seeds in hot water or rubbing them vigorously against a rough surface will help remove the wax.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Height and legginess can be maintained with a line trimmer or the shrub can be allowed to develop into an airy hedge. Prune annually if want to maintain a tree shape.

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

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From the National Suppliers Directory

According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Native Plant Nursery - Sanibel, FL
Hill Country Natives - Leander, TX
Far South Wholesale Nursery - Austin, TX

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Native Plant Society of Texas - Fredericksburg, TX
Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
Georgia Native Plant Society - Atlanta, GA
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX
NPSOT - Williamson County Chapter - Georgetown, TX

Wildflower Center Seed Bank

LBJWC-MLE-40 Collected 2010-10-02 in Tyler County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

1 collection(s) available in the Wildflower Center Seed Bank

Bibliography

Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 481 - How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest: Revised and Updated Edition (2001) Nokes, J.
Bibref 293 - Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas (1979) Correll, D. S. & M. C. Johnston
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1993 VOL. 10, NO.6 - Saving Trees and Plants at New Center Site a Big Job, Director's Report, Wildflo...
Wildflower Newsletter 1998 VOL. 15, NO.5 - Native Shrubs Providing Landscape Heritage and Habitat, Executive Director\'s Re...

Recommended Species Lists

Find native plant species by state. Each list contains commercially available species suitable for gardens and planned landscapes. Once you have selected a collection, you can browse the collection or search within it using the combination search.

View Recommended Species page

Additional resources

USDA: Find Morella cerifera in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Morella cerifera in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Morella cerifera

Metadata

Record Modified: 2013-09-07
Research By: TWC Staff, MAC, GDG

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