California Wax Myrtle (Californica)

The California Wax Myrtle (Californica) is generally described as a perennial tree or shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the early summer, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are retained year to year. The California Wax Myrtle (Californica) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical California Wax Myrtle (Californica) will reach up to 33 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 30 feet.

The California Wax Myrtle (Californica) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below 22°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: Wax from the pulp of the fruit was used to make aromatic candles. The wax was also used in making soups. A gray-brown and a maroon-purple dye was obtained from the fresh or dried berries (Grae 1974). This species was easily grown and valued especially on the Pacific Coast for its berries and evergreen leaves (Wyman 1965).

Agroforestry: Myrica californica is used in tree strips for windbreaks. They are planted and managed to protect livestock, enhance production, and control soil erosion. Windbreaks can help communities with harsh winter conditions better handle the impact of winter storms and reduce home heating costs during the winter months. They also provide shade and wind protection during the summer, which aids in the reduction of cooling bills.

General Characteristics

General: Pacific waxmyrtle (Myrica californica) is a large evergreen shrub or small tree, ten to thirty-five feet high. The leaves are alternate, simple, five to ten centimeters long with resin dots, and are slightly sticky and fragrant when crushed. The fruit are purplish, single seeded berries, coated with a white wax, ripening in the early autumn and usually falling during the winter. The bark is smooth, compact, dark gray or light brown on the surface and dark red-brown internally (Sargent 1961).

Required Growing Conditions

Pacific waxmyrtle occurs in canyons and hill slopes of the coastal region from the Santa Monica Mountains of Los Angeles County northward to Del Norte County, and north to Washington (McMinn 1939). For current distribution, please consult the Plant profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation Myrica californica thrives in wet soil conditions and is drought tolerant. It grows best in full sun in an open position and can tolerate light shaded areas. This species prefers a peaty soil or lime free loamy soil.

Cultivation and Care

Propagation from Seed: Seeds are best sown as soon as ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Stored seeds will germinate faster if they go through a three-month period of cold stratification and then are sown in a cold frame. As soon as the seeds are ripe, place them in seed trays or containers. When seedlings are large enough to handle, place them in individual pots and grow them in a cold frame for the first winter. Plants should be planted into their permanent positions in the late spring or early summer.

General Upkeep and Control

In exposed situations the wax myrtle forms a little more than a bushy arborescent shrub but in protected areas it becomes a medium sized tree, much branched and densely leafy, with a gray warty unfissured bark (Howell 1949). Plants injured by fire sprout from the heavy root crown (Ibid.).

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Tree, Shrub
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Early Summer
Displays Fall Colors Yes
Shape/Growth Form Multiple Stem
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 33
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature 22
Soil Depth for Roots 20
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing Yes
Growth Requirements
pH Range 6–7.5 pH
Precipitation Range 40–40 inches/yr
Planting Density 700–1700 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 20
Minimum Frost-Free Days 240 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance High
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention Yes
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA