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Products > Myrica californica
Myrica californica - Pacific Wax Myrtle
Image of Myrica californica
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Myricaceae (Bayberries)
Origin: California (U.S.A.)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Yellow
Bloomtime: Spring
Synonyms: [Morella californica]
Height: 20-30 feet
Width: 10-20 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Seaside: Yes
Summer Dry: Yes
Deer Tolerant: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: <15 F
Myrica californica (Pacific Wax Myrtle) - This California native is a vigorous multi-branched evergreen shrub reaching up to about 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide - easily kept smaller. It has smooth gray bark and upright stems that are densely clothed with lustrous 4-inch long, toothed-edge leaves which emerge a bright apple green is spring and darken as they mature. Myrica species are either dioecious, with male and female flowers borne on separate plants or as in the case of the Pacific Wax Myrtle monoecious, with unisexual flowers on the same plant. Both male and female flowers are inconspicuous and in tiny reddish yellow catkins late spring and summer. The female flowers can be followed by brownish-purple berries that ripen in fall and are highly attractive to myrtle warblers and many other birds. The foliage or nectar of this plant also attracts several butterfly species. Performs best in full sun to partial shade with a quick-draining soil. It is drought tolerant in coastal plantings but looks better when given occasional to regular irrigation. Cold hardy, tolerating temperatures below 15 F. Drought stressed plants are sometimes attacked by greenhouse thrips in coastal plantings and mites in inland gardens but both can be mitigated by increased irrigation and/or the use of horticultural soaps or oils. This plant is suitable for use as large hedges, screens or as a specimen small tree. High wind and salt tolerance make it perfect for seaside use. The leaves have a spicy aroma that can be used like bay leaves to season food and for this reason this plant is often referred to as California Bayberry. In his 1941 catalog Theodore Payne noted that "Found in Canyons in the Santa Monica Mountains and from there northward near the coast. For foliage effect it is one of the most desirable of the native shrubs. It stands ordinary garden culture quite well and will grow well in shade." Most recent treatment of the family Myricaceae has Myrica californica renamed to Morella californica (Morella californica (Cham. & Schltdl.) Wilbur). The genus Morella has about 50 species ranging from North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia while Myrica gale, the bog myrtle of Europe and northeastern North America and Myrica hartwegii, the California native Sierra Myrtle, are the only 2 plants that remain in the genus Myrica. We continue to list this plant incorrectly under the name Myrica californica until such time that those of us who learned this plant as Myrica get used to the name Morella. 

This information about Myrica californica displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.