|Monday Melange: Northern Bayberry|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Sunday, 10 December 2006|
Bayberry (Morella pensylvanica) is a deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub known for its glossy green fragrant leaves, twigs, and waxy bluish-white berries. The berries were used by the colonists to make candles, and are now often associated with the Christmas season, especially in New England.
Bayberry, formerly known by the genus name Myrica, is native to the coastal regions of eastern North America, growing between USDA zones 2 and 8, from Newfoundland south to Maryland. Bayberry grows wild in beach areas colonizing sand dunes by means of suckers where it stabilizes the soil and prevents erosion. Bayberry also fixes nitrogen in the soil.
The insignificant green flowers bloom in the spring; however, it’s the berries or drupes that ripen in the fall, and persist throughout for most of the winter, that make the bayberry a plant of special interest and a food source for birds. Both male and female plants must be planted in order to produce the berries.
Bayberry prefers sun or light shade and does well in poor sandy soils similar to those of its native habitat. It is also salt-tolerant, making it the ideal plant for urban as well as seaside gardens, either alone as a specimen, as an informal shrub border, or massed together to provide a privacy screen. Bayberry grows up to 10 feet tall and as wide.
Bayberry is sometimes referred to as bay laurel, but is a completely different plant than the real laurel (Laurus nobilis), whose leaves (the bay leaf) are used for cooking. The only part of the bayberry plant that is used medicinally is the bark of the root.
Photo source: www.gtcd.org