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bay-berry n. Evergreen shrub used for decorating and making candles.

Bayberry Plant on LBI. Photo by Lynn MacIntosh

I took this photo of a bayberry plant at the base of the Barnegat Light
lighthouse, on Long Beach Island, NJ. The berries were at their peak.

AKA: Bayberry, waxberry, candleberry, wax myrtle, myrtle, tallow shrub, tallow berry, American vegetable tallow tree. Also know as bayberry is a tropical American tree, the bay rum tree, the leaves of which are used in preparation of bay rum. The sweet gale, or bog myrtle, is found in Scotland.

Habitat: Native to sandy swamps or wetwoods. Grows well in poor sandy soil.

Description: All bayberry plants are characterized by naked flowers, small nuts referred to as berries that are covered with a greenish white wax. Southern wax myrtle is a shrub or slender tree up to 40 feet high. Northern bayberry is a shrub 8 feet high or less, with broader and blunter leaves. Bayberry leaves are fragrant with the bayberry scent when crushed.

Bayberry wax: Bayberry wax has a warm, earthy fragrance similar to balsam. It is a lovely olive green color. It is sometimes blended with beeswax. Bayberry candles are especially popular around the holidays. Bayberry wax is the rarest and most prized of all candle waxes. It takes 15 pounds of bayberries to make just one pound of bayberry wax. The berries are boiled, and the wax coating is separated from the seeds, is skimmed and strained. Pure bayberry wax is recommended for dipped tapers. It will not burn properly as a piller or votive. Melt point is approximately 116 degrees F (47 c). Soap can also be made from bayberry wax.

History: Since early colonial times bayberry taper candles have been burned all the way down on Christmas Eve or New Years Eve to bring good luck for the coming year.

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Note: I gathered the information for this article from many sources. I quoted directly from . Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia source.