Myrica pensylvanica

Northern Bayberry, Candleberry




  • native to eastern United States and Canada
  • zone 2
  • primarily in coastal regions

Habit and Form

  • a semievergreen to deciduous shrub
  • typically 5' to 6'; can reach 10'
  • upright, spreading branching habit
  • shape is irregular to mounded
  • multi-stemmed, suckering and colony-forming
  • coastal plants are low-growing, often only 1' to 2' tall

Summer Foliage

  • leaves are semievergreen to deciduous
  • alternate leaf arrangement
  • leaves are simple, obovate or oblong
  • 1.5" to 4" long leaves
  • 0.5" to 1.5" wide leaves
  • shallow teeth at the leaf apex
  • leaves are dark green and leathery
  • underside of leaves pubescent
  • leaves are leathery and aromatic when crushed

Autumn Foliage

  • semievergreen with no real fall color
  • leaves slowly turn bronze or tan and fall through the autumn and winter


  • dioecious with male and female plants; sometimes monoecious
  • male flowers are yellow green catkins
  • female flowers are single with no sepals or petals
  • blooms in early spring
  • not ornamentally important


  • female plants produce small, BB-sized waxy fruits
  • color is chalky, gray-green
  • wax from the fruit is used to make bayberry candles


  • stems are slender
  • bark is not important


  • full sun to partial shade, but full sun is best
  • does well on dry, sandy, infertile soils
  • prefers acidic soils; avoid high pH soils
  • tolerant of salt spray

Landscape Use

  • shrub border
  • as a foundation plant
  • difficult growing sites
  • seashore landscapes
  • along roadsides
  • mass plantings
  • combines well with evergreens
  • soil stabilization due to colonizing nature


  • chlorosis on high pH soils
  • not always easy to find in commerce
  • about 20% of plants should be male to achieve good fruit set on female plants
  • suckering

ID Features

  • aromatic foliage and stems
  • colonizing habit
  • semievergreen, leathery leaves
  • female plants with waxy gray-green fruits


  • by seed
  • vegetative propagation by cuttings or division of suckering plants


Very few selections of this wonderful native plant have been made, but sexed selections are sometimes offered by specialty nurseries. 'Myda', for example, is a fruiting female clone, while 'Myriman' is a male pollinator. In most cases, a mass of plants are installed to ensure pollination and fruiting.

'Morton' (Silver Sprite) - A new selection out of Illinois, this female fruiting clone forms a dense, broad-oval mound with gray-green leaves. It grows to 5' tall and wider.

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database,, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.