Myricaceae
The Sweetgale Family
 
 
    The sweetgale family has 2 genera and about 40 species of deciduous and evergreen shrubs and small trees.  These plants are characterized by aromatic foliage and wax-coated fruits.
 
 

 Click on the links below for an introduction to a tree of this family:
 
wax myrtle
 
 
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Myrica cerifera
wax myrtle, southern bayberry
 
 
 

Habit

    The wax myrtle is a shrub or small tree, 20-40 feet in height, 8-10 inches in diameter.  It has divergent branches which form a narrow, round crown.
 

Leaves

    Leaves are simple, alternate, and persistent.  The leaves are 2-4 inches long, 1/2 inch wide, elliptical in shape, with an acute apex.  Leaf bases are wedge-shaped.  Leaf margins are coarsely serrate-toothed.  Leaves are yellow-green with small dark glands above, bright orange glands below.  Petioles are short and stout.
 

Flowers
 
    The flowers of this plant are unisexual and dioecious.  They occur in oblong catkins.
 

Fruit
 
    Fruit is a drupe, 1/8 inch in diameter, covered with a bluish wax.  Fruit is on short spikes that are persistent until spring.  Seeds are small and pale.
 

Twigs

    The twigs are slender, becoming dark brown and glabrous in their second season.  The pith homogeneous.
 

Bark

    The bark is thin, smooth, and gray-green with gray patches.
 

Habitat

    The wax myrtle grows in sandy soils near the east coast.  It is found from New Jersey south along the coast to southern Florida, west through the Gulf states to Texas.
 

Use

    The waxy coating of the fruits is sometimes used to make candles, which burn with a bluish flame.  When extinguished a lasting fragrant aroma remains.
 
 

Click on the link below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
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Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 

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