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TREES & Plants

Bayberry

A pleasantly aromatic shrub, Bayberry can used in a shrub border, in mass, or informal foundation planting. The loose, open habit, small, waxy, persistent, gray fruit add winter interest and attract many species of birds. 

Botanical name: 
Myrica pensylvanica
All Common Names: 
Bayberry, Northern Bayberry
Family (English): 
Bayberry
Family (Botanic): 
Myricaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
Foliage: 
  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)
  • Deciduous (foliage falls off)
Native Locale: 
  • North America
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
Growth Rate: 
  • Medium
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun (4-6 hrs light daily)
Tolerances: 
  • Dry sites
  • Wet sites
  • Occasional flooding
  • Clay soil
  • Road salt
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil
  • Sandy soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
  • Other
Size Range: 
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Irregular
  • Round
  • Thicket-forming
  • Upright
Landscape Uses: 
  • Shade
  • Massing
  • Hedge
  • Mixed border
  • Screen
Time of Year: 
  • Mid winter
  • Late winter
  • Early spring
More Information: 

Size & form

A semi evergreen to deciduous shrub, typically 5 to 6 feet high and  wide; can reach 10 feet high.
Shape is irregular to upright with spreading branch habit; multi-stemmed, suckering and colony-forming

Tree & Plant Care

Performs well in full sun to partial shade, best in slightly acidic, moist soil.
Does well on dry, sandy, infertile soils once established.
Tolerant of wet soil and  salt spray.
Requires male plant to pollinate for fruit set.
Shallow fibrous root system, slow to establish and will benefits with a layer of mulch to conserve moisture.
Supplemental water in dry periods.

Disease, pests, and problems

None serious. Chlorosis in high pH soils

Native geographic location and habitat

Native along coastal regions in Eastern United States

Attracts birds & butterflies

  • Many bird species are attracted to the fruits and for shelter.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

  • Alternate; semi-evergreen, leathery, oblong, 1 1/2 to 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide.
  • Dark green above, pale green beneath, resin dotted; very aromatic when crushed

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Plants are dioecious (separate male and female plants);  sometimes monoecious and appear before the new leaves.
Male flowers are small, yellow green catkins; female flowers are single with no sepals or petals

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Female plants produce a small, rounded chalky gray, waxy fruit up and down the stems;  fruits persists into winter.
Wax from the fruit is used to make bayberry candles.

Cultivars and their differences 

Silver Sprite™ (Myrica pensylvanica 'Morton'):  A female clone with dense, compact, broad-oval habit and attractive gray-green foliage, reaching 4 to 5 feet  high and 6 to 7 feet wide. A Chicagoland Grows ™ introduction.

Silver Sprite™ (Myrica pensylvanica 'Morton Male'): same superior habit and deep green foliage that Silver Sprite™ displays. This selection has a deep eggplant-purple color during the winter and is an excellent selection to use as a pollinator for Silver Sprite™ to get good fruit production. Zones 4-7.