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Leaves of bayberry.

A pleasantly aromatic large shrub.  Bayberry is an upright-rounded, dense shrub with semi-evergreen, dark green, leathery-like leaves and small waxy, persistent blue-gray fruit, which add winter interest and attract many species of birds.  Native along the coasts of eastern U.S., can be used in a shrub border, in mass, or informal foundation planting. 

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name:

Myrica pensylvanica

All common names:

Bayberry, Northern Bayberry, Candleberry

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Hedge,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Screen,
  • Shade tree

Size Range:

  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet),
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Sandy soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Wet sites,
  • Occasional flooding,
  • Clay soil,
  • Road salt

Seasons of Interest:

  • midwinter,
  • late winter,
  • early spring

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous,
  • Other

Shape or Form:

  • Irregular,
  • Round,
  • Thicket-forming,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

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 upright to rounded 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 required 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. Requires both to set fruit.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Female plants produce a small, rounded chalky, blue-gray, waxy fruit up and down the stems;  fruits persists into winter. Plant several to insure fruit set.
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. A Chicagoland Grows™ introduction.

Location of Myrica pensylvanica (Bayberry) at the Arboretum