Californian Bayberry (Myrica californica)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Californian Bayberry
Myrica californica
Myricaceae

A wax covering on the fruit is extracted by scalding the fruit with boiling water and immersing them for a few minutes, the wax floats to the surface and is then skimmed off. The fruit is then boiled in water to extract the wax from the pulp and once more the wax is skimmed off. It is then strained through a muslin cloth and can be used to make aromatic candles[106, 245]. Candles made from this wax are quite brittle but are less greasy in warm weather[213]. They are slightly aromatic and do not smoke when put out, making them much more pleasant to use that wax or tallow candles[213]. The wax is also used in making soaps[213]. To date (07/12/95) plants growing on our Cornish trial grounds have fruited freely but have not produced much wax. They produced somewhat more after the hot summer of 1995, but there was still not enough to make extraction worthwhile[K].

A grey-brown and a maroon-purple dye are obtained from the fresh or dried berries[168].

Wood – heavy, very hard, strong, brittle, close grained[82].

  • Medicinal Use

    The bark and root bark is used in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders and infections[238].

  • Edible Use

    Fruit – raw or cooked[105, 177]. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter with a large seed[200]. There is very little edible flesh and the flavour of this is poor[200, K].

  • Cautionary Notes

    Although no reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, there is a report for some members of this genus that some of the constituents of the wax might be carcinogenic[222].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame[78]. Stored seed germinates more freely if given a 3 month cold stratification and then sown in a cold frame[78]. Germination is usually good[78]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the cold frame for the first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer[K]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 – 8cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Pot up and overwinter in a cold frame then plant out in late spring or early summer. Fair to good percentage[78]. Layering in spring[200].
Prefers a moist soil[200]. Grows well in an open position in a well-drained soil in sun or light shade[200]. Thrives in any ordinary garden soil according to one report[11] whilst another says that it thrives in an acid soil[182]. Prefers a lime-free loamy or peaty soil[1]. Plants can be cut back to the ground in severe winters in many parts of Britain[1, 11], but they are well suited to the milder parts of the country[11, 59] where they are fast-growing and produce fruit within 5 years from seed[K]. They succeed and fruit well on a south facing wall at Kew[K]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. The fruit is covered with a deposit of wax that has a balsamic odour[245]. Many species in this genus have a symbiotic relationship with certain soil micro-organisms, these form nodules on the roots of the plants and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200].
South-western N. America – Washington to California.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.