1. Myrica Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 1024. 1753; Gen. Pl. ed. 5, 449, 1754.
Wax-myrtle, bayberry, sweet gale, myrique [Greek myrike, name for tamarisk or another aromatic shrub; possibly from myrizein, to perfume]
Cerothamnus Tidestrom; Gale Duhamel; Morella Loureiro
Shrubs or small trees , often aromatic and resinous. Branches spreading, terete, glabrous or pubescent, often gland-dotted. Leaves persistent or deciduous; stipules absent. Leaf blade aromatic when crushed (except M . inodora ), oblanceolate, elliptic, obovate, or oblong-ovate, membranous or leathery, margins entire or serrate-denticulate, especially in distal 1/2, pubescent or glabrous, usually gland-dotted. Inflorescences ± erect, ellipsoid to short-cylindric or ovoid, appearing before or with leaves; bracts ovate, glabrous or variously pubescent. Flowers unisexual, rarely bisexual, staminate and pistillate flowers usually on different plants, infrequently on same plants. Staminate flowers: stamens (2-)3-12(-22), shorter or longer than subtending bract; filaments mostly distinct, often connate into branching staminal column, each branch terminated by anther; rudimentary ovary occasionally present. Pistillate flowers: ovary subtended by 2-6 broadly ovate bracteoles, these sometimes persistent and accrescent, always shorter than fruit, sometimes completely absent; styles short. Fruits globose or ovoid to lenticular, smooth or more commonly with warty protuberances, usually covered with waxy coating that dries white. x = 8.
Species ca. 50 (7 in the flora): nearly worldwide.
Myrica is often cultivated. Myrica species were used by various tribes of Native Americans for medicinal purposes. Leaves were used for a gynecological aid and an emetic; the bark, as a blood purifier and a kidney aid (D. E. Moerman 1986). Bayberry candles were used by early settlers, and they remain popular household items, both decorative and functional.
Davey, A. J. and C. M. Gibson. 1917. Note on the distribution of sexes in Myrica gale. New Phytol. 16: 147-151. Houghton, W. M. 1988. The Systematics of Section Cerophora of the Genus Myrica (Myricaceae) in North America. M.S. thesis. University of Georgia. MacDonald, A. D. 1977. Myricaceae: Floral hypothesis for Gale and Comptonia. Canad. J. Bot. 55: 2636-2651. MacDonald, A. D. and R. Sattler. 1973. Floral development of Myrica gale and the controversy over floral concepts. Canad. J. Bot. 51: 1965-1975. Thieret, J. W. 1966. Habit variation in Myrica pensylvanica and M. cerifera. Castanea 31: 183-185.