Herbs & Plants

Myrica californica

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Botanical Name: Myrica californica
Family: Myricaceae
Genus: Myrica
Species: M. californica
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fagales

Synonyms: Gale californica

Common Names: California bayberry, California wax myrtle, California Barberry

Habitat : Myrica californica is native to the Pacific Ocean coast of North America from Vancouver Island south to California as far south as the Long Beach area. It grows in the Ocean sand dunes and moist hill sides near the coast, usually on acid soils and tolerating poorly drained soils.

Myrica californica is an evergreen Shrub growing to 4 m (13ft 1in) at a medium rate. It has serrated, sticky green leaves 4-13 cm long and 0.7-3 cm broad, which emit a spicy scent on warm days. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flower’s inflorescence is arranged in a spike 0.6-3 cm long, in range of colors from green to red. The fruit is a wrinkled purple berry 4-6.5 mm diameter, with a waxy coating, hence the common name wax myrtle. This species has root nodules containing nitrogen-fixing microorganisms, allowing it to grow in relatively poor soils.


The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.
Landscape Uses:Border, Hedge, Screen, Seashore, Specimen. Prefers a moist soil. Grows well in an open position in a well-drained soil in sun or light shade. Thrives in any ordinary garden soil according to one report whilst another says that it thrives in an acid soil. Prefers a lime-free loamy or peaty soil. Plants can be cut back to the ground in severe winters in many parts of Britain, but they are well suited to the milder parts of the country where they are fast-growing and produce fruit within 5 years from seed. They succeed and fruit well on a south facing wall at Kew. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus. The fruit is covered with a deposit of wax that has a balsamic odour. Many species in this genus have 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. Special Features:Attracts birds, North American native, Fragrant foliage, Attracts butterflies, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. 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 them 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 then plant out in late spring or early summer. Fair to good percentage. Layering in spring

Edible Uses: Fruit – raw or cooked. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter with a large seed. There is very little edible flesh and the flavour of this is poor.

Medicinal Uses:  The bark and root bark is used in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders and infections.
Other Uses:
Dye; Wax; Wood.

A wax covering on the fruit 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. Candles made from this wax are quite brittle but are less greasy in warm weather. They are slightly aromatic and do not smoke when put out, making them much more pleasant to use that wax or tallow candles. The wax is also used in making soaps. To date (07/12/95) plants growing on our Cornish trial grounds have fruited freely but have not produced much wax. They produced somewhat more after the hot summer of 1995, but there was still not enough to make extraction worthwhile. A grey-brown and a maroon-purple dye are obtained from the fresh or dried berries. Wood – heavy, very hard, strong, brittle, close grained
Known Hazards: Although no reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, there is a report for some members of this genus that some of the constituents of the wax might be carcinogenic.

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.


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