Wax Myrtle Morella cerifera (Linnaeus) Small    Synonyms: Cerothamnus ceriferus, Cerothamnus pumilus, Myrica cerifera, Myrica cerifera var. pumila, Myrica pumila.
Kingdom Plantae   >   Division Tracheophyta   >   Class Magnoliopsida   >   Order Myricales   >   Family Myricaceae   >   Genus Morella   


Maryland's three Morella species are similar but with a little effort can be easily separated. First off, Wax Myrtle is by far the most common of the three species. The leaves are narrow - usually less than 1.5 cm wide - and the fruits are usually less than 2.5 mm in diameter at maturity. Northern Bayberry and Southern Bayberry have wider leaves - usually 1.5 to 4 cm wide - with fruits 3 to 7 mm in diameter. Northern Bayberry has resinous glands on the upper and lower surface of the leaves. Southern Bayberry has resinous glands on the lower surface and none (or very few) on the upper surface. Another difference between the two bayberry species is the twigs of Southern Bayberry are hairy and the twigs of Northern Bayberry are smooth.

Where to find:

Morella species are more common on the Coastal Plain than in the Piedmont. Wax Myrtle is the most common species in Maryland. Northern Bayberry is less common but still widespread on the Coastal Plain. Southern Bayberry is very rare and known from only a handful of populations in Maryland.


An extremely important food source for many bird species that winter along the coast, including Myrtle Warbler and Tree Swallows. Host plant for various moth species including Bayberry Leaftier Moth, Dogwood Borer Moth, Cecropia Moth, Io Moth, Polyphemus Moth, and Little Wife Underwing Moth.

There are 323 records in the project database.

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Wax Myrtle in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (4/18/2017). Photo by Bill Harms. (MBP list)

Wax Myrtle with fruit in Dorchester Co., Maryland (11/11/2012). Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

Wax Myrtle growing in Dorchester Co., Maryland (4/2/2016). Photo by Nancy Martin. (MBP list)

Wax Myrtle growing in Dorchester Co., Maryland (4/2/2016). Photo by Nancy Martin. (MBP list)

Wax Myrtle in Charles Co., Maryland (11/4/2014). Photo by Rod Simmons. (MBP list)

The trunk of a large Wax Myrtle at Deal Island, Somerset Co., Maryland (1/20/2013). Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

The bark of Wax Myrtle in Wicomico Co., Maryland (12/28/2013). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)

Wax Myrtle in Worcester Co., Maryland (4/13/2017). Photo by Marcia Balestri. (MBP list)

Wax Myrtle in Dorchester Co., Maryland (4/14/2020). (c) Wayne Longbottom, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)

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