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Botanical Name: Myrica gale
Species: M. gale
Synonyms: -Bayberry. English Bog Myrtle. Dutch Myrtle. Herba Myrti Rabanitini. Gale palustris (Chevalier).
Common Names: Bog-myrtle and Sweet Gale.
Habitat: Myrica gale is native to northern and western Europe and parts of northern North America. It grows on the Higher latitudes of Northern Hemisphere; Great Britain, especially in the north; abundant on the Scottish moors and bogs.
Myrica gale is a deciduous, bushy shrub, growing to 4 feet high. The wood and leaves fragrant when bruised. The leaves, not unlike a willow or myrtle, are oblanceolate, tapering entire at the base, toothed and broadest at the apex, the upper side dark glossy green, the underside paler and slightly downy, under which are a few shining glands. The male plant produces flowers in May and June in crowded, stalkless catkins. The fruit catkins about the same size, but thicker, are closely-set, resinous nutlets, the flowers being borne on the bare wood of one year’s growth……..CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES
There is some difference of opinion about the needs of this plant. Most reports say that it prefers a moist soil and that it grows well in an open position in a well-drained soil in sun or light shade. Most reports also say that it prefers or even requires a lime-free loamy or peaty soil, but another report says that it succeeds in any ordinary garden soil. In the wild it is usually found in soils with a pH between 3.5 and 6, but it is also sometimes found in fens with a pH as high as 7.5. A suckering shrub, when well sited it can form thickets. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil micro-organisms, these form nodules on the roots of the plants and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby. This habit also allows the plant to succeed in water-logged soils. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. This plant is occasionally monoecious and also can change sex from year to year. Flowers are produced mainly on one-year old wood. All parts of the plant are pleasantly aromatic. A good food plant for the caterpillars of many species of butterflies. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus.
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Barely cover the seed and keep it moist. Stored seed germinates more freely if given a 3 month cold stratification and then sown in a cold frame. Germination is usually good. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in the cold frame for the first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 – 8cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Pot up and overwinter in a cold frame. Fair to good percentage. Cuttings of mature wood in November/December in a frame. Layering in spring. Division of suckers in the dormant season. Plant them out direct into their permanent positions
Edible Parts: Fruit.
Edible Uses: Condiment; Tea.
The aromatic fruits and leaves are used either fresh or dried to flavour soups, stews etc. They are sometimes put in beer and ale to improve the flavour and increase foaming. The fruit is about 3mm in diameter with a single large seed. The dried leaves make a delicate and palatable tea.
Parts Used : Leaves, branches.
Constituents: Said to contain a poisonous volatile oil and to have properties similar to those of Myrica cerifera.
The leaves are abortifacient, aromatic, astringent, emmenagogue and stomachic. The leaves are normally used as a tea, but they do contain a poisonous aromatic oil, so some caution is advised in their use.
The leaves have been used in France as an emmenagogue and abortifacient. The Swedes use it in strong decoction to kill insects, vermin and to cure the itch. The dried berries are put into broth and used as spice. In China, the leaves are infused like tea, and used as a stomachic and cordial.
Dye; Essential; Parasiticide; Repellent; Tannin; Wax.
A wax covering on the fruit and leaves is extracted by scalding the fruit with boiling water and immersing them for a few minutes, the wax floats to the surface and is then skimmed off. The fruit is then boiled in water to extract the wax from the pulp and once more the wax is skimmed off. It is then strained through a muslin cloth and can be used to make aromatic candles. These candles diffuse a delightful odour when burnt. Unfortunately this species does not produce enough wax to make it commercially viable. A yellow dye is obtained from the stem tips. Brown according to another report. A yellow dye is obtained from the seeds. The bark contains tannin and can be gathered in the autumn and used as a yellow dye. The plant repels moths and insects in general. The fragrant leaves are used. A strong decoction of the leaves can be used as a parasiticide to kill external body parasites. A fragrant essential oil is obtained from the fruits
The sexes are on different plants. The leaves are often dried to perfume linen, etc., their odour being very fragrant, but the taste bitter and astringent.
The branches have been used as a substitute for hops in Yorkshire and put into a beer called there ‘Gale Beer.’ It is extremely good to allay thirst. The catkins, or cones, boiled in water, give a scum beeswax, which is utilized to make candles. The bark is used to tan calfskins; if gathered in autumn, it will dye wool a good yellow colour and is used for this purpose both in Sweden and Wales.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.