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Wax myrtle, Southern Bayberry
Myrica cerifera

Copyright by: Chuck McCartney

General Landscape Uses: A versatile shrub or small tree in formal and informal landscapes, but it needs moist to wet soils to thrive. It can be used as an accent or specimen shrub, as a trimmed or informal hedge, or in mixed buffer plantings. Learn more about gardening with wax myrtle for birds and other wildlife in Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens.

Availability: Widely cultivated. Available in Boynton Beach at Sustaincape Florida (561-245-5305), Lake Worth at Indian Trails Native Nursery (561-641-9488)

Description: Medium to large shrub or small tree with a narrow crown from crooked trunks. Bark pale gray. Leaves wax-covered, semi-deciduous, 1-4 inches long, aromatic when crushed.

Dimensions: Typically 8-15 feet in height in South Florida, but extremely variable; to 36 feet in Florida. Sometimes as broad as tall, especially when smaller.

Growth Rate: Moderate.

Range: Eastern and southeastern United States west to Texas and Oklahoma and south to the Monroe County Keys; Bermuda, West Indies, Mexico and Central America. In the Monroe County Keys, disjunct from the Miami-Dade County mainland and North Key Largo to the lower Keys. For a digitized image of Elbert Little's Florida range map, visit the Exploring Florida website.

Plant Map Map of select IRC data from peninsular Florida.

 Map of suggested ZIP codes from South Florida north to southern Brevard, Osceola, Polk, and Pasco counties.

 Map of ZIP codes with habitat recommendations from the Monroe County Keys north to Martin and Charlotte counties.

Habitats: Swamps and forest edges.

Soils: Moist to wet, well-drained to poorly-drained sandy, limestone, or organic soils, usually with humusy top layer.

Nutritional Requirements: Moderate; can grow in nutrient poor soils, but needs some organic content to thrive.

Salt Water Tolerance: Low; does not tolerate long-term flooding by salt or brackish water.

Salt Wind Tolerance: Moderate; grows near salt water, but is protected from direct salt spray by other vegetation.

Drought Tolerance: Moderate; generally requires moist soils, but tolerant of short periods of drought once established.

Light Requirements: Full sun to light shade.

Flower Color: White.

Flower Characteristics: Inconspicuous catkins.

Flowering Season: All year; peak winter-spring.

Fruit: Small, waxy bluish drupe.

Wildlife and Ecology: Provides significant food and cover for wildlife. Larval host plant for red-banded hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) butterflies and io (Automeris io) moths. Yellow-rumped warblers, tree swallows and a wide variety of other birds feed on the fruit, which are particularly important to wintering birds just prior to their return migration.

Horticultural Notes: Can be grown from seed; usually cold stratified. Also can be grown from cuttings with difficulty.

References: Nelson 2003, Schaefer & Tanner 1997

Copyright by: Chuck McCartney

Copyright by: Wes Jurgens

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Copyright by: Don & Joyce Gann

Copyright by: Jay Horn via iNaturalist

Other data on Myrica cerifera available from:

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