Sunday, January 2, 2022

Wax myrtle: an under-used Florida native

The female wax myrtles carry a heavy
load of berries that feed the winter birds.

Wax myrtle (Morella cerifera formerly Myrica cerifera) is an easy-to-grow evergreen shrub or small tree that typically grows to 10-15’ tall and 8-10’ wide, but sometimes it grows to 20’ tall or more. It's native to all of Florida, even The Keys, and naturally occurs in a variety of habitats including edges of wetlands, river margins, sand dunes, pine barrens, hillsides, and upland forests. Species epithet "cerifera" means wax-bearing.

This species is dioecious (male and female flowers borne in catkins on separate plants). Female plants are preferred in the landscape because they produce the fruit to feed the birds, particularly migrating birds during the winter. Of course, at least one male plant is needed in the neighborhood to facilitate pollination of the female flowers.