Herbs & Plants

Myrica heterophylla

Botanical Name : Myrica heterophylla
Family: Myricaceae
Order: Fagales
Genus: Myrica
Species: Myrica heterophylla

Synonyms: Myrica caroliniensis

Common Name : Bayberry or Swamp bayberry

Habitat : Myrica heterophylla is native to Southeastern N. America – New Jersey to Florida, west to Louisiana. It grows on bogs, stream, pond and lake margins, moist regions of mixed deciduous forests, pine flatlands near pitcher-plant bogs, swamps from sea level to 250 metres.

Myrica heterophylla is an evergreen Shrub growing to 3 m (9ft 10in). It is often forming rhizomatous colonies of much-branched specimens, to 3 m. Branchlets appearing black, glabrous to densely pilose; glands sparse or dense, yellow-orange. Leaf blade aromatic when crushed, oblanceolate to elliptic, occasionally obovate, 3-12.4(-14.2) × 1-5.2 cm, sometimes membranous, more often leathery, base cuneate to attenuate, margins entire or serrate distal to middle, apex rounded to acute, apiculate; surfaces abaxially pilose (especially on major veins) or glabrate, densely glandular, adaxially pilose or glabrous, lacking glands or very sparsely glandular; glands yellow. Inflorescences: staminate 0.5-1.8 cm; pistillate 0.3-1.1 cm. Flowers unisexual, staminate and pistillate on different plants. Staminate flowers: bract of flower shorter than staminal column, margins opaque, ciliate, especially at apex and laterally, abaxially glabrous or with few glands; stamens 3-5(-7). Pistillate flowers: bracteoles persistent in fruit, 4, not accrescent or adnate to fruit wall, abaxially pilose, usually along midrib, lacking glands; ovary glabrous or sparsely glandular, not pubescent. Fruits globose-ellipsoid, 3-4.5 mm; fruit wall glabrous or sparsely glandular, obscured by enlarged protuberances (± glandular) and thin to thick coat of gray to white wax.
It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen in September.

The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Wind.The plant is not self-fertile.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

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. Succeeds in dry and maritime climates. Closely related to M. pensylvanica and M. cerifera. Dioecious, male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus. 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.
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 on in a 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: Condiment; Tea.
The following notes are for the closely related M. cerifera. It is assumed that they also apply to this species. Fruit – raw or cooked. The fruit is about 2 – 4mm in diameter with a single large seed. There is very little edible flesh and this is of poor quality. Leaves and berries are used as a food flavouring. An attractive and agreeable substitute for bay leaves, used in flavouring soups, stews etc. The dried leaves are brewed into a robust tea.

Medicinal Uses:
The following notes are for the closely related M. cerifera. It is assumed that they also apply to this species. The root bark is astringent, emetic (in large doses), sternutatory, stimulant and tonic. It is harvested in the autumn, thoroughly dried then powdered and kept in a dark place in an airtight container. It is used internally in the treatment of diarrhoea, jaundice, fevers, colds, influenza, catarrh, excessive menstruation, vaginal discharge etc. Externally, it is applied to indolent ulcers, sore throats, sores, itching skin conditions, dandruff etc. The wax is astringent and slightly narcotic. It is regarded as a sure cure for dysentery and is also used to treat internal ulcers. A tea made from the leaves is used in the treatment of fevers and externally as a wash for itchy skin.
Other Uses:
Dye; Hedge; Hedge; Wax; Wood.

The following notes are for the closely related M. cerifera. It is assumed that they also apply to this species. 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, sealing wax etc. Candles made from this wax are quite brittle but are less greasy in warm weather. They are slightly aromatic, with a pleasant balsamic odour, 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. About 1 kilo of wax can be obtained from 4 kilos of berries. A blue dye is obtained from the fruit. The plant can be grown as an informal hedge, succeeding in windy sites. Wood – light, soft, brittle, fine-grained. The wood weighs 35lb per cubic foot. It is of no commercial value

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.