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Plant Profile: Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)

bayberry northern Myrica pensylvanica bushThis upright, suckering shrub is a native of coastal North America and was important in colonial times when candles were made from the berries. Deciduous or semi-evergreen depending on the climate, northern bayberry is irregular to mounded and has one to four inch long dark green aromatic leathery leaves that slowly turn bronze to tan in winter. Male and female flowers are produced on separate plants and one male should be planted for every five females to ensure good fruit set. Small wax covered gray-green berries are produced by female plants in the fall. Northern bayberry fixes its own nitrogen from the air so does well on infertile soil. It is effective for large-scale masses, shrub borders, and informal hedges, and can be used to stabilize soils because of its colonizing nature. It is tolerant of wind and salt so is an excellent plant for seaside plantings.

Type: Semi-evergreen to deciduous shrub

Outstanding Features:Tolerance of salt and infertile soils; waxy berries

Form: upright, spreading; irregular to mounded; colonizing

Growth Rate:Medium from old growth, fast from root suckers

bayberry northern Myrica pensylvanica berriesBloom: Male and female flowers are produced on separate plants in spring; waxy gray-green berries are produced by female plants

Size: 1-12′ H x 6-12′ W (typically 5-6 ‘ H; plants in coastal area tend to be low growing.)

Light: Full sun but tolerates some shade

Soil: Infertile, dry, slightly acidic; tolerates wet soil

Hardiness:Zones 2-7

Care:Prune to renew branches; cut old leggy plants to the ground to rejuvenate.

Pests and Diseases:None of significance but susceptible to leaf spots, dieback, stem rots, root rots, rust.

Propagation: Fresh seed; layering; cuttings in summer; divisions of suckering plants.

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