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Bayberry

Myrica cerifera L.; M. carolinensis Mill.

Northern bayberry
Figure 13.—Northern bayberry (Myrica carolinensis)
Other common names.—(1) Southern waxmyrtle, waxberry, tallow berry, candleberry, tallow shrub, candleberry myrtle; (2) northern bayberry, small waxberry.

Habitat and range.—The bayberry is native in sandy swamps or wet woods from New Brunswick south to Florida. Myrica cerifera is found as far west as Texas and Arkansas while M. carolinensis is common in bogs in northern New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Description.—The southern waxmyrtle is a shrub or slender tree up to 40 feet high. The leaves are from 1 to 4 inches long, narrow, wedge-shaped, entire or with a few teeth, and have a fragrant odor when crushed. The flowers appear from March to May, according to locality, generally before the leaves are fully expanded. Male and female flowers are borne on separate trees, the male flowers in cylindrical yellow clusters and the female flowers in green somewhat shorter clusters. The fruit, which remains on the tree for several years, consists of clusters of round, 1-seeded, somewhat berrylike nuts covered with a whitish wax. Northern bayberry is a shrub 8 feet high or less, with broader and blunter leaves.

Part used.—The bark of the root, collected in late autumn. After thorough cleansing and while still fresh the bark is loosened and removed by heating the root. The wax obtained from the berries, used for making bayberry candles, is also an article of commerce.


Sievers, A.F. 1930. The Herb Hunters Guide. Misc. Publ. No. 77. USDA, Washington DC.
Last update Friday, March 16, 1998 by aw