Botanical Name: Myrica pensylvanica
Common Name: Bayberry
Family Name: Myricaceae
Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 5 to 10 feet
Spread: 5 to 10 feet
Bayberry can be found in eastern Canada (New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, P.E.I., and Quebec) and the United States, from Maine south to Florida and west to Texas and Arkansas. Also found inland from western New York, Ohio and southern Ontario.
Bayberry is a single or multi-stemmed deciduous to semi-evergreen shrub. The branchlets range in color from brown-grey to blackish and are dotted with aromatic glands. The leaves are simple, alternate, resinous, and aromatic when bruised, and have short petioles. They are shallowly toothed from middle to the apex and are dark green being pubescent above and beneath. They are 1½-4” long and ½-1½” wide. Unisexual catkins flower with male and female catkins emerging on different plants. At maturity, the fruit is covered by a coat of grey wax and persists throughout the winter. Bloom time is May, fruits mature in fall.
Bayberry is very adaptable as it can endure full sun to dense shade and can grow in wet and dry conditions. It can also tolerate high winds and salt spray. It is able to fix its own nitrogen so it is tolerant of nitrogen-poor, acidic soils. It can be found in swamps, bogs, fields, dunes, oak and pine forests, and banks of streams and lakes.
Growth Habit and Management
Cultivation of Bayberry is often on dry, sandy, sterile soils. It does best in acidic peaty soils and its suckering habit may lead to large colonies. It should be allowed to grow naturally with minimal pruning. Shaping or restricting it will usually reduce its potency.
Pests and Disease
May be vulnerable to root and stem rot, leaf spot, rust, and dieback.Uses and Benefits
The waxes produced from the fruit are used in making aromatic candles and soaps, and the fruits are used in decorative arrangements. Due to its versatility it can be used in group or mass plantings, embankments, hedges, privacy screens, and on a bank for erosion control or near roads due to its salt tolerance.
Its showy silver berries add winter interest.
Bayberry often produces suckers from its base and can spread beyond its original boundaries if it’s not controlled.
If pruning is done in late summer, fruit production will suffer.
Winterburn often occurs, diminishing some of its winter interest.