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What's Blooming: Wax Myrtle

January 12, 2012
Anita Force Marshall , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

First impression: Bumpy, aromatic, bluish lavender berries covering a multitude of stems. They are teeny tiny and too numerous to count. Ahh, my nose detects a magnificent bayberry type essence, after handing the waxy berries. The narrow leaves are gray-green to yellow-green and fragrant also when crushed. I notice oodles of branches and multi stemmed gray trunks. Tweety-tweet-tweet We have multitudes of pseudo-blue berries that our birds love to sing about, fruiting now at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Wax Myrtle is one of my garden must haves. We gardeners in paradise are always looking for a great habitat plant for our backyard birds. Fortunately, we have this wonderful native plant that is covered with fruits right when our hungry birds are looking for their next meal. Get ready when berries occur, birds will thank you with a cheerful song. Butterflies love it also since it is the host plant -- aka plants on which butterflies lay their eggs--for the Red Banded Hairstreak butterfly (Calycopis cecrops). You might find them fluttering all around it adding another dimensional beauty. You will also love its densely branched habit; you decide the height by pruning. Left on its own, the mature height is around 20 feet tall. Our star grows wide and bushy with occasional suckers around the base. It is evergreen and can be shaped just how you want it. This means no hedging or edging, so that it doesn't look like a mushroom or box. Plants have a natural shape, which should be mimicked when pruning. Out dated, over pruning is a huge waste of resources and leads to a very unhappy, unhealthy and unattractive garden. We have it in many places all over the garden and shape or trim it to fit the area it's in. Very versatile! I am gaga over its earthy bayberry like aroma, which is a double whammy coming from the leaves and these itty bitty fruits. Theses fruits occur only on the female Wax Myrtles. Males Myrtles have a caterpillar like yellow blossom and no berries. Both look the same until they flower; so ask before you buy, if you would like a particular gender. The berries are blue berry-like but much smaller. Size doesn't matter, abundant winter fruiting is relished by all sizes of our garden birds. Once you see the bountiful berries you will love this plant. Once you are mesmerized by the fragrance it will be on your gotta have list. I began my love of Wax Myrtle, with my first plant I purchased from the SCCF Native Plant Nursery. Its native status puts it in the easy care, drought tolerant, and lack of pests/disease category. Wax Myrtle will grow on a wide variety of soils and sand. Super for our tropical climate due to its drought tolerance and full to filtered sun. Wax Myrtle from days gone was used for scenting many early settlers candles. They also used it for repelling of insects in their homes. I encourage you to add this to your garden, once you hear your garden bird thanking you with an eye closing melody, don't forget to thank me!

Pros: Oodles of fruit - Does well in sandy or wet soil - Likes full sun/partial shade - Easy to maintain/prune Birds love the fruit - Salt tolerance Earn extra money making scented candles Drought tolerant Neighbors will wonder where that lovely fragrance is coming from - Easy care Cold tolerant Native Butterfly host plant.

Cons: Fast grower Birds love the fruit May have to thank Anita - Re think/tolerate caterpillars and nibbled leaves.

Conclusion: Have you lost your garden symphony? Come hear our avian arias as they partake from our bountiful berries, at our tropical garden in paradise.

Don't wanna miss this fruiter!

 
 

 

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