Shrub of the Week: Northern Bayberry

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{The text and images for this bygl-alert are provided by Joe Cochran, director of OSU’s Secrest Arboretum of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center}

  Northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica):  Very aromatic foliage, a great winter food source for birds, tolerates salt spray and poor soils, along with being a native, this certainly makes northern bayberry a consideration for many landscapes. 

  Growing to 10 ft., this native of the coastal sand flats and tidal marshes from Maine to North Carolina is adaptable to a variety of difficult landscape conditions.  It’s obovate to oblong-obovate, glossy-green, leathery leaves are dotted with resin and release that typical bayberry aroma when crushed.  A mostly dioecious shrub, it slowly forms dense colonies providing shelter for many garden critters. From a less than showy flower, small, blue-gray, waxy-coated drupes develop. This fruit is desired by turkey, ruffed grouse, pheasants, tree swallows, woodpeckers and other birds.

 

northern bayberry fruits

 

  According to Michael Dirr, there are too few cultivars being developed. Among those on the market are two from Denmark, ‘Myda’ a heavy fruiting female and her counterpart, ‘Myriman’.  ‘Wildwood’ is a United States National Arboretum selection offering excellent cold hardiness and slightly smaller plant growing to 6 feet.  ‘Bobzam’, Bobbee™ is a Lake County Nursery introduction that we grow at Secrest Arboretum.  It is another more compact, (6 ft.) cultivar offering foliage that is much larger, glossier, and wavy.