I Love Myrica pensylvanica aka bayberry

Sep 18, 2020 | Gardens

Name: Myrica pensylvanica aka bayberry

Type of Plant:   Native shrub or small tree for full sun and sandy soils

Why I Love/Hate this plant:  In dry summers, this is one of the plants that shows little sign of drought stress. This shrub is either male or female (dioecious) and if you want berries you need both. But female or male, you have a plant that is nitrogen fixing so will grow in sandy soils. I like this plant because the berries are eaten by warblers, evening grosbeaks, gray catbirds, tree swallows, brown thrashers, eastern bluebirds and European starlings. I like that you can shear it at 3 to 4 feet high, cut it to the ground every spring, or let it grow into a multi-stemmed small tree.

Our native bayberry can be used as a seasoning, much as the bayleaf (Laurus nobilis) is traditionally added when cooking.

A Word to the Wise:  This shrub suckers, meaning it spreads to the sides. This is good news if you want a plant to hold soil on a slope in full or part sun. But if you want a plant that won’t spread from side to side, this isn’t for you.

This bayberry self-seeded near my air conditioner, and I decided to let it stay. I’ll continue to remove lower growth and let it grow into a small tree. It’s a male, so no berries.

Bayberry can be cut to the ground every spring and it will grow to between three and four feet tall over the summer.

The grey to blue berries have been used for decades to make bayberry scented candles.

2 Comments

  1. Dolly woods

    CL I have 4 bay berries that are 10 years old .
    Will these 4 also produce berries if I add a female or do I need to remove them ( I’m guessing they are male since no. Berries)
    Thank You

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Dolly,
      If they don’t make berries they are most likely males although it’s possible I suppose that they are females without any male in the area. (doubtful) I see no reason to get rid of males…. they are equally lovely, and needed by the females in your neighborhood.

      Reply

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