By LYNN ARTZ and SANDY TEDDER
Wax myrtle (Morella cerifera formerly Myrica cerifera) is a common evergreen shrub or small tree that is native to all of Florida. Also called southern bayberry, the aromatic, waxy, gray fruits on female plants were used by colonists to make fragrant bayberry candles, soaps, and sealing wax. Migrating birds eat the fruits and value the winter cover. The leaves feed the caterpillars of the banded hairstreak and the red-banded hairstreak butterflies. Underused in home landscapes, wax myrtle grows 10-20 feet tall and makes an excellent screen or “living fence.” With lower limbs removed, it can be an attractive, multi-trunked, small tree. Wax myrtle is drought, wind, and salt tolerant. It helps to form the east and west borders of the north gardens at Sopchoppy Depot Park.