Small branch of Pacific Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica) covered in glossy evergreen leaves. One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Small branch of Pacific Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica) covered in glossy evergreen leaves. One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.

Pacific Wax Myrtle

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Myrica californica

Pacific Wax Myrtle is a fast growing, large evergreen shrub that functions perfectly as a screen or hedgerow (goodbye invasive laurel!). It has narrow, lance-shaped leaves that are glossy and smooth to the touch. Inconspicuous flowers arrive in spring and transform into clusters of small red to purple berries by fall that are a magnet for backyard birds and wildlife.

  • Plant type/canopy layer: evergreen perennial large shrub
  • Size at maturity: 10’-30’ tall, 10’-20’ wide (can be heavily pruned into more narrow spaces)  
  • Light requirements: full sun, part-sun / part-shade
  • Moisture requirements: moist to dry
  • Bloom time: May - July
  • Growth rate/ease: fast growing, very easy to grow 
  • Wildlife support: berries are prized food for small mammals and birds; flowers attract and provide nectar to adult butterflies; overall plant/vegetation is caterpillar host plant and larval food source for many species of native moths
  • Native habitat/range: Common in coastal conifer forests, bogs, sand dunes, stream banks, wet meadows, marshes, and moist hillsides along the Pacific Northwest coastline from British Columbia through most of California, sea level to 1000m. Portland Plant List - no. 
  • Special features & uses: evergreen, hedgerow and windbreak, wildlife favorite, bank stabilization and erosion control, deer resistant

Gardening with Pacific Wax Myrtle: This hardy wonder shrub will not only tolerate, but will look stunning, in a wide variety of light and soil conditions. For best success, place it in a full to mostly sunny place with basically any soil type, from damp to dry, and plenty of room to grow. It’s roots have a relationship with nitrogen-fixing microorganisms, which allow it to grow in low-nutrient soils while enriching them over time. This plant makes an excellent hedge or screen, an ideal replacement for invasive laurel hedges, and can be heavily pruned for narrow spaces.

Photo Credits: "Myrica californica" by gertjanvannoord is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0