Field of Science

Fall Color - Bayberry

If you have the space for it, they tend to spread, bayberry (Myrica gale) is a very interesting ornamental shrub because the "female" plants (a dioecious, which means "two houses", plant) produce an unusual fall fruit display consisting of clusters of globose fruits with a gray-blue wax covering. The whole plant, especially the leaves and fruit, are fragrant, and the wax melts around 75 C and can be collected by simmering the fruit in hot water, but based upon efforts of my students in their gums, resins, latexes, oils, and waxes lab, you would need one heck of a lot of shrubs to make even one small candle. The extracted wax is a gray-green color and the candle would smell great when burned. As a native of the deep south my Mother was quite enamored with the bayberry that grew wild near my rural upstate New York childhood home and she wanted some for her garden, and while doing her bidding both Father and son got the worst case of poison ivy. In my defense, this was 5-6 years prior to my first botany course ever, and it was well after frost had removed the tell tale poison ivy leaves. This was a botanical mistake the Phactor would never make now; you must use students to wade in and do the collecting.

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