Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Myrica cerifera


SPECIES: Myrica cerifera
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Van Deelen, Timothy R. 1991. Myrica cerifera. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : MYRCER SYNONYMS : Morella cerifera (L.) Small Cerothamnus cerifera (L.) Small Cerothamnus Pumilus (Michx.) Small Myrica carolinensis Mill. [52] Myrica cerifera var. cerifera Myrica cerifera var. pumila Michx. [8] Myrica pusilla Raf. Myrica mexicana Willd. [52] SCS PLANT CODE : MYCE COMMON NAMES : wax-myrtle waxmyrtle bayberry candleberry dwarf waxmyrtle southern bayberry southern waxmyrtle TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for wax-myrtle is Myrica cerifera L. (Myricaceae) [8,49,50,51,53]. M. cerifera hybridizes with M. pennsylvania to produce M. macfarlanei Youngken [16]. LIFE FORM : Shrub, Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Myrica cerifera
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Wax-myrtle is most common in peninsular Florida and on the Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States. It occurs from the Florida Keys north to southern New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware; west to eastern Texas, southeast Oklahoma, and central Arkansas. Atypical reported occurrences include Maine, Massachusetts, and New York. Outside the United States, wax-myrtle grows in Bermuda, Cuba, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the British West Indies. It grows in Mexico, Central America, and South America from Costa Rica to Belize [16,20,26]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak - pine FRES15 Oak - hickory FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress FRES32 Texas savanna FRES41 Wet grasslands STATES : AR FL GA HI LA ME MD MA MS NY NC OK TX VA MEXICO BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K062 Mesquite - live oak savanna K079 Palmetto prairie K080 Marl - everglades K089 Black belt K090 Live oak - sea oats K091 Cypress savanna K092 Everglades K105 Mangrove K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest K112 Southern mixed forest K113 Southern floodplain forest K114 Pocosin K116 Subtropical pine forest SAF COVER TYPES : 70 Longleaf pine 71 Longleaf pine - scrub oak 72 Southern scrub oak 73 Southern redcedar 74 Cabbage palmetto 80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine 81 Loblolly pine 82 Loblolly pine - hardwood 83 Longleaf pine - slash pine 84 Slash pine 100 Pondcypress 102 Baldcypress - tupelo 103 Water tupelo - swamp tupelo 104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - red bay 105 Tropical hardwoods 106 Mangrove 111 South Florida slash pine SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Wax-myrtle is common in a variety of habitats and plant communities in the southeastern United States. It grows equally well with the subtropical vegetation of south Florida and the temperate vegetation of the Inland Coastal Plain. Wax-myrtle is the most common shrub in the longleaf (Pinus palustris)-slash pine (P. elliottii) type [3,20,23,36]. Other common overstory associates include loblolly pine (P. taeda), southern redcedar (Juniperus silicicola) [11], cabbage palmetto (Sabal palmetto) [48], pond pine (Pinus serotina) [4], live oak (Quercus virginiana) [19], spruce pine (Pinus glabra) [22], and baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) [11,33]. Common understory associates include dahoon holly (Ilex cassine), sawgrass (Cladium jamaicensis) [30], muhly grass (Muhlenbergia spp.), beard grass (Andropogon spp.), saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia), myrsine (Myrsine floridana), and sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana) [49].


SPECIES: Myrica cerifera
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : A consistent contributor to the available browse biomass in southeastern forests, wax-myrtle is occasionally eaten by cattle [7]. Wax-myrtle frequently invades rangeland and decreases the production of more palatable forage [45]. Many birds eat southern bayberry fruit, including the northern bobwhite quail and the wild turkey [15]. The seeds are important winter food for Carolina wrens and tree sparrows [17]. PALATABILITY : Wax-myrtle is unpalatable to white-tailed deer in eastern Texas [24,25]. Its palatability to cattle is unreported. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : Diffuse wax-myrtle growth provides some cover for northern bobwhite quail, although unrestricted growth produces unusable habitat [21]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Wax-myrtle's usefulness for disturbed site rehabilitation is unknown. Useful attributes include a moderate tolerance of salt-spray [34] and an ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen at a rate that exceeds that of legumes [9]. Wild wax-myrtle seeds can be harvested by hand or shaken onto a canvas. Seed processing requires removal of the waxy coat by mechanical agitation or rubbing over a dry screen. Before sowing, the seeds require stratification at 34 to 40 degrees F (1-4 deg C) for 90 days. The seeds should be drilled into rows 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm) apart and covered with 0.25 inch (0.8 cm) of firmed soil. Fall plantings should be mulched. Wax-myrtle yields approximately 84,000 cleaned seeds per pound (184,000/kg) [20]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Wax-myrtle is the source of wax used in making bayberry candles. Boiling removes the wax from the fruit. The genus name comes from the Greek "myrike", meaning tamarisk or some other fragrant plant. The specific epithet, cerifera, means "wax-bearing" [20,41]. Wax-myrtle was first cultivated in 1699 for medicinal purposes. Its leaves, bark, and fruit yield pharmaceutical chemicals [20]. Wax-myrtle is a popular ornamental because it grows quickly, responds well to pruning, and is heavily clothed in attractive evergreen foliage [20,41]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Wax-myrtle is an understory pest on southern pine plantations. It competes with pine seedlings and contribute to an accumulation of understory fuels which increases the potential for damaging wildfires [27,28]. Pearson and others [36] believe that the presence of southern bayberry on grazed longleaf pine plantations may have eased grazing pressure on the pine seedlings. A 20 percent Garlon 4, 10 percent Cide-kick (a penetrant), 70 percent diesel-oil herbicide mixture can be used for wax-myrtle control. Basal applications should be made in February, using the "streamline" technique [32]. Tests of burning, chopping, and blading methods for wax-myrtle control found that wax-myrtle can return to pretreatment levels within 3 years [43].


SPECIES: Myrica cerifera
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Wax-myrtle is an erect, evergreen, small tree or shrub. It is native to low-elevation tropical, subtropical, and warm-temperate regions of the Americas. It grows to a maximum height of 40 feet (12 m), and a maximum d.b.h. of 12.5 inches (32 cm) at maturity [16,20]. Its flat leaves are toothed near the end and aromatic when crushed [3]. The diminutive flowers are unisexual, dioecious, and borne on catkinlike axillary spikes. Wax-myrtle fruit are small, light green, dry drupes which are covered with a conspicuous layer of pale blue wax, giving them a "warty" appearance. Each axillary spike bears 1 to 12 berries, which may persist over winter [10,20]. The seeds have no endosperm [20]. Wax-myrtle is clonal, with several stems growing from a common root collar. Underground runners extend the growth laterally [16]. Root nodules, associated with a symbiotic actinomycete, are capable of atmospheric nitrogen fixation [9]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Wax-myrtle reproduces vegetatively by sprouting from its root collar and underground runners [9]. Seedlings will establish on disturbed sites [39], but the seeds require removal of their waxy coating before they will germinate [20]. Birds, feeding on southern bayberry fruit, probably accomplish wax removal and seed dispersal. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Wax-myrtle grows on a variety of sites but seems to be restricted to climates with mild winters and long, hot, humid summers, and elevations below 500 feet (150 m). It grows in heavy soils [41] which may be either wet or dry, in habitats that may be open or wooded [3]. Wax-myrtle's ecological amplitude is demonstrated by reported growth on fresh to slightly brackish banks and shores, flats and interdune swales, pine and palmetto flatwoods and savannas, cypress-gum ponds and swamps, wet and dry prairies, pitcher-plant bogs, upland mixed woodlands, old fields, and fence and hedge rows [6,16,40]. Additionally, it grows on sites that are peculiar to the Florida Everglades, particularly the drier portions [29] where it reaches its highest density with low to medium flooding [41]. Such sites include tree islands, cypress heads, and wet and dry hammocks [10,16,29,47]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Wax-myrtle is an early successional species. It is one of the first woody plants to invade secondary dunes and beach meadows in the Southeast [9], and naturally reseeds disturbed sites from adjacent forests [31]. In the Everglades, increased human-caused disturbance, such as draining and burning, has caused wax-myrtle to become more common as it invades sawgrass, marl prairie, and mixed hardwood swamp communities. Dense thickets form, known locally as "hell nests" [18,29,47]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Wax-myrtle flowers between February and June. Its fruit ripens from August to October [2].


SPECIES: Myrica cerifera
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Wax-myrtle is a fire survivor. Its root crown survives fire and it regenerates by basal sprouting [44,45]. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex


SPECIES: Myrica cerifera
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Fire easily top-kills wax-myrtle shrubs [44]. Typically the entire aerial portion of the stem dies [13], although extremely light fires may only kill the most recent annual growth [21]. The root crown survives and remains vigorous. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : Wax-myrtle stems die quickly. The stems and foliage of southern bayberry contain large amounts of aromatic compounds that are quite flammable [6], making it a potential fire hazard. Presumably, severe enough fires will kill wax-myrtle rootstock, although no such instances were reported in the literature. The rootstock is apparently quite hardy. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Wax-myrtle sprouts vigorously from surviving root crowns following fire [2]. The most vigorous growth occurs in the 1st postfire year [1]. Stem density and frequency increase rapidly relative to cover. Cover increases less rapidly because the wax-myrtle clones are self-thinning [2,44]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : Fire periodicity probably determines the long-term fire response of wax-myrtle. In loblolly stands in South Carolina, single or occasional summer fires caused wax-myrtle cover to increase. By contrast, annual summer fires reduced wax-myrtle cover and sprouting vigor, eventually eliminating it. Lotti [27] documented 100 percent mortality after as few as three successive annual summer fires. Fire response may be site dependant as well. A single fire on an eastern Texas slash pine stand caused a steady decline in southern bayberry for 3 years [24]. On wet everglades sites (sawgrass, marl prairie, mixed hardwood swamp), drainage coupled with frequent burning favors wax-myrtle invasion [18,40,47]. On drier savannas, fire suppression favors wax-myrtle invasion [5,6]. On eastern Texas longleaf pine savannas, wax-myrtle control required fires every 5 years [6]. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Lotti [28] recommended four successive annual fires or three successive biannual summer fires to achieve a cumulative wax-myrtle mortality of about 90 percent. Winter fires are less effective than summer fires for wax-myrtle control and may be used when management goals call for wax-myrtle enhancement [28,44]. Winter fires can be used for control if done frequently. When wax-myrtle invasion is undesirable, fires should be annual for the first several years, then become less frequent as wax-myrtle cover decreases. Such a prescription may be combined with grazing for control and maintenance at a level where wax-myrtle provides livestock forage [26,45]. On nitrogen-poor sites, managers should be cautious about southern bayberry control. Annual fires greatly reduce wax-myrtle density, minimizing its nitrogen-fixing contribution [42]. Dry fuel weights can be predicted from basal stem diameters for southern bayberry. Refer to Reeves and Lenhart [39] for fuel load calculations.


SPECIES: Myrica cerifera
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