Scarification: Soak in water, let stand in water for 24 hours|remove all wax from seed, wash in warm detergent water to completely get the wax off, rinse 3 times
Stratification: cold stratify for 90 days
Germination: sow seed 1/4" deep, tamp the soil, mulch the seed bed
Introducing Myrica cerifera, a versatile and adaptable small tree or large shrub that thrives in various habitats. This evergreen plant can be found naturally in wetlands, near flowing bodies of water, sand dunes, fields, hillsides, pine barrens, and both needleleaf and mixed-broadleaf forests. It displays some variations depending on its environment, with shrub-like specimens in drier and sandier areas having small leaves and rhizomes, while tree-like specimens in wetter areas boast bigger leaves.
Not only does Myrica cerifera offer a striking appearance, but it also provides a valuable food source for numerous bird species. The fruit attracts Northern Bobwhite Quails and Wild Turkeys, while its seeds become a vital winter food for Carolina Wrens and Tree Sparrows. Additionally, this species offers habitat for the Northern Bobwhite Quail, proving its ecological importance.
An interesting quality of Myrica cerifera is its fire-resistant root system. While the plant's leaves and above-ground parts are prone to fire damage due to flammable aromatic compounds, its roots have proven remarkably resilient. No fire has been known to kill the roots of this plant, making it a survivor. However, shoot destruction poses a threat, and if the plant experiences three consecutive years of shoot destruction, it may not survive. Fortunately, if not completely destroyed, Myrica cerifera can regrow its shoots, particularly in the first season after a fire.
This resilient plant is often one of the first to colonize an area, making it a key player in ecological succession. Its long, leathery leaves with serrated edges and aromatic compounds add to its appeal. With male flowers surrounded by short bracts and borne on catkins, the female flowers develop into globular fruit covered in a natural wax-like coating. Notably, the wax needs to be removed by bird digestion to facilitate germination.
Moreover, Myrica cerifera houses root nodules that host a species of actinomycotal fungus, capable of fixing nitrogen much faster than legumes. This symbiotic relationship enhances the plant's overall health and vitality.
Despite its vulnerability to wildfires, Myrica cerifera encompasses invaluable traits that contribute to its survival and ecological significance. With its adaptability, attractive features, and role in supporting bird species, this Southern Wax Myrtle is a remarkable addition to any natural habitat.