Herb: Californian Bayberry

Latin name: Myrica californica

Family: Myricaceae (Bayberry Family)

Medicinal use of Californian Bayberry:

The bark and root bark is used in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders and infections.

Description of the plant:


4 m
(13 feet)



Habitat of the herb:

Ocean sand dunes and moist hill sides near the coast, usually on acid soils and tolerating poorly drained soils.

Edible parts of Californian Bayberry:

Fruit - raw or cooked. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter with a large seed. There is very little edible flesh and the flavour of this is poor.

Other uses of the herb:

A wax covering on the fruit is extracted by scalding the fruit with boiling water and immersing them for a few minutes, the wax floats to the surface and is then skimmed off. The fruit is then boiled in water to extract the wax from the pulp and once more the wax is skimmed off. It is then strained through a muslin cloth and can be used to make aromatic candles. Candles made from this wax are quite brittle but are less greasy in warm weather. They are slightly aromatic and do not smoke when put out, making them much more pleasant to use that wax or tallow candles. The wax is also used in making soaps. To date (07/12/95) plants growing on our Cornish trial grounds have fruited freely but have not produced much wax. They produced somewhat more after the hot summer of 1995, but there was still not enough to make extraction worthwhile. A grey-brown and a maroon-purple dye are obtained from the fresh or dried berries. Wood - heavy, very hard, strong, brittle, close grained.

Propagation of Californian Bayberry:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Stored seed germinates more freely if given a 3 month cold stratification and then sown in a cold frame. Germination is usually good. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the cold frame for the first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Pot up and overwinter in a cold frame then plant out in late spring or early summer. Fair to good percentage. Layering in spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Ocean sand dunes and moist hill sides near the coast, usually on acid soils and tolerating poorly drained soils.

Known hazards of Myrica californica:

Although no reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, there is a report for some members of this genus that some of the constituents of the wax might be carcinogenic.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.