Bayberry

BayberryBayberry — Myrica is a genus of about 35-50 species of small trees and shrubs in the family Myricaceae, order Fagales. The genus has a wide distribution, including Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America, and missing only from Australasia. Some botanists split the genus into two genera on the basis of the catkin and fruit structure, restricting Myrica to a few species, and treating the others in Morella.Common names include Bayberry, Bay-rum tree, Candleberry, Sweet Gale and Wax-myrtle.

The species vary from 1 m shrubs up to 20 m trees; some are deciduous, but the majority of species are evergreen. The roots have nitrogen-fixing bacteria which enable the plants to grow on soils that are very poor in nitrogen content. The leaves are spirally arranged, simple, 2-12 cm long, oblanceolate with a tapered base and broader tip, and a crinkled or finely toothed margin. The flowers are catkins, with male and female catkins usually on separate plants (dioecious). The fruit is a small drupe, usually with a wax coating.

The type species, Myrica gale, is holarctic in distribution, growing in acidic peat bogs throughout the colder parts of the Northern Hemisphere; it is a deciduous shrub growing to 1 m tall. The remaining species all have relatively small ranges, and are mostly warm-temperate.

The wax coating on the fruit of several species, known as Bayberry wax, was used in the past to make candles. The foliage of Myrica gale is a traditional insect repellant, used by campers to keep biting insects out of tents. Several species are also grown as ornamental plants in gardens. The fruit of Myrica rubra is an economically important crop in China. Myrica is used to spice beer and snaps in Denmark. The Swiss Family Robinson used them to make candles.

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