Myrica californica (Pacific Wax Myrtle)
Myrica californica, commonly called Pacific wax myrtle, is an evergreen shrub or small tree native to the Pacific coast and coastal valleys from the Santa Monica Mountains north to Vancouver Island in Washington.
Myrica is one of the most versatile, best looking, and truly adaptable large natives for Sonoma County gardens.
- It grows 10-30 ft. tall and 10-12-ft. wide, amenable to shaping into a manicured hedge as well as into a symmetrical, medium–sized shrub or narrow tree.
- As a small tree, it becomes an attractive specimen plant when its serrated, glossy leaves are placed against a light-colored background or positioned to add height, shade, and contrasting shape to a perennial garden.
- Fast growth and dense branching from the ground up makes it a good choice for quickly screening a wall or unsightly view or for protecting privacy.
- Where a dense tree or shrub is not wanted, train myrica into a single or multi-trunked shape and remove all lower branches to enhance the open structure.
- If the branching becomes too sparse, the main stem may be cut to within a foot of the ground and vigorous growth will rapidly ensue.
- Inconspicuous flowers yield purplish brown, waxy fruit attractive to birds such as flickers, finches, and robins.
Besides being a versatile selection in easy-care home gardens, Pacific wax myrtle performs in the most demanding environments such as near windy shorelines and even along freeways.
- It has earned a reputation as one of the toughest plants along Sonoma’s north coast where strong winds lash vegetation with salt spray and sand.
- A stand of 20-foot wax myrtles combats the buffeting winds on the headlands at MacKerricher State Park north of Ft. Bragg.
- All sizes and shapes adapt to sandy, loamy, or clay soil.
- It performs best when planted in full, open sunlight in coastal areas but prefers afternoon shade inland.
- It tolerates some shade, but shrubs that grow in dim sites tend to lose portions of their lush foliage as they continually reach for light.
- Although it tolerates only occasional irrigation, appearance is enhanced with regular waterings, resulting in as much as 2-4 ft. of growth a year.
Pacific wax myrtle is generally long-lived. However, it can suffer from pests such as thrips, spider mites and whiteflies. Deer generally ignore it.