Thursday, May 31, 2012

WAX MYRTLE - TIDBITS AND HANDY HINTS

Have you ever smelled the scent of a Wax Myrtle?  When you brush-up against it or rub the leaves, a very fresh smell - known as Bayberry - is released!
Wax Myrtle aka Bayberry

So, the “Bayberry” scented candles you can find in the store; actually, come from the wax that coats the berries on a Wax Myrtle!  Now, isn’t that clever?  Another name for Wax Myrtle is Bayberry.

But, that’s not all!  The berries can be eaten by some our feathered friends.

The two Wax Myrtles that we have close by do not produce berries.

Perhaps, they are both ‘males’ or there is not a ‘male’ close by to help the two produce berries which is fine with me.

Have you noticed that when you’re around birds that eat berries … you have to wash your car, as well as everything else, more often?  What a mess!

People can also use the berries for flavor.  The leaves can help repel insects for ‘happy campers,’ in addition to, other benefits!

It appears to be a “well rounded plant.”

Speaking of it being “well rounded” … actually, a Wax Myrtle can easily be shaped or trained into a “rounded” canopy.  It can also be allowed to grow naturally as a bush or small tree.

A Wax Myrtle does require trimming or pruning if you want it to stay at a certain size or shape.  It likes to grow!  Don’t be surprised if you need to get out your tools more than twice a year to do it justice.

CONFESSION
We like our Wax Myrtles to be kept as small accent trees.

Wax Myrtle needs a haircut!
All of our landscaping was trimmed and pruned nicely before the spring of last year.  There was too much going on, though.  So, you understand what that means.  You have to choose priorities and something has to wait!


Suckers and Runners
under Wax Myrtle
Well, besides cleaning-up the suckers and runners that grow at the bottom of the Wax Myrtles which was done last fall/winter, our trees have pretty much been ignored until about 2-weeks ago.

We prefer the trees not touching the house (better for pest control inside the house); not on the roof (the roof and insurance company appreciate that); and the suckers and runners removed from the bottom of the tree.

Notice how tall; thick and hairy the tree looked.  It was in need of a pretty radical haircut!


Neglected Wax Myrtle!
Wax Myrtle taller than,
and touching, the roof!
Now, I took these photos after I trimmed it 2-weeks ago.  I took out some of the height and thickness.  I also cleaned-up the suckers and runners at the bottom of the tree.

Wax Myrtle after trimming!

Removed Suckers and Runners from Wax Myrtle!
OBSERVATION
I love the smell when I am trimming the trees!  Because I am rubbing and brushing up against it, it releases such a fresh scent.

There is something, though, that kind of irritates my skin that is not protected by gloves or clothing.  I am not sure what it is.  I do have sensitive skin.  My skin is usually okay after I wash with cold water, or maybe, even take some allergy medicine for the reaction.

The wood is soft and easy to trim.  That being said, you have to work slow and easy to not accidentally hurt a limb you want to keep.  In the after photo above, you can see where a little too much is missing from the top/center.  (It looks kind of woody.)  That was me!


Since the wood can be brittle, you could loose some in the winter from the weight of snow, ice or high wind.  One winter, we lost a small limb off of a Wax Myrtle, but it grew back nicely.

If you want your Wax Myrtle to form a barrier, screen or hedge, then you may not appreciate a gap or hole in your view if you should get hit with rough weather.  Just a thought, if you think that is a possibility.

Otherwise, whatever mistakes I have made with trimming the Wax Myrtle, it usually forgives me.

Wax Myrtles stay green all year which is pleasing to the eye in the winter.  It does drop some leaves, but is not a big deal compared to something, like a Magnolia.

Wax Myrtles like to bask in sun and part shade.  I have noticed the one that receives more sun in our yard is thicker and grows more than the other one in part shade.

This seems to be a pretty easy plant to use in a variety of soils.  It also can work with moderate drought conditions after it has had a chance to get established.

Fertilizer is nice, but not, absolutely necessary because this incredible plant can change nitrogen poor soil around.  Now, isn’t that something?

CAUSE FOR ALARM!
The two published reference books I have, never said a word about danger.  Then I jumped on the web and looked for additional information on Wax Myrtles.  I saw two articles, out of many on the web, that caused me to panic.

One article mentioned a Wax Myrtle is ‘very flammable.’  The other one said the same with additional information.  It mentioned how the oils cause it ‘to ignite in a flash in a fire’ like ‘dried, dead foliage.’

Okay, that scared me!  I imagined two torches at either end of our home.  One lit cigarette from a careless smoker and "POOF!" ... it would be all over!

To make me feel better, I decided to do an experiment of my own.

EXPERIMENT
Remember, safety is always first!

This is not something that a child should try without adult supervision.

Experiment - Catch twig on fire?
I gathered up the following items:

  • Container for water
  • Water
  • Twig from Wax Myrtle
  • Lighter
  • Camera

I got one of those large plastic storage containers to fill with water.  (Just in case I dropped the twig, it would fall into water.)  I also, wet the grass and ground around the area I was going to conduct my experiment.


We held the twig over the container of water and lit it on fire.  I held the flame directly on 2 or 3 leaves.  I also, held it to the side of the twig.  I was trying to set it on fire.

CONCLUSION
See burned portion of stem under yellow leaf?
The flame and fire would quickly burn-out!  Yeah!

Notice these two photos with a yellow leaf from another tree under the burnt area of the Wax Myrtle.  I'm trying to help you see the burn marks.  Pretty insignificant, huh?

See burned leaf under yellow leaf?
Happily, the twig did not become a small torch.  It appeared to be slow to catch on fire and it quickly burned out.

Now, I had watered the Wax Myrtle a day before.

I don’t know if that completely changed how this experiment turned out or not.

I am not an expert.  But, it seems reasonable to question the two statements I found on the internet about the Wax Myrtle being ‘very flammable.’

Just goes to show you that ‘opinions are like noses, we all have them and they’re all different.’





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