Bayberry Shrub, aka Bayberry, Bay-rum tree, Candleberry, Sweet Gale, and Wax-myrtle (genus Myrica) - Sedgebrook Retirement Community (southwest corner of property) - on a path between official sections of the Des Plaines River Trail, Lake County, IL - 21 March 2009
Myrica is a genus of about 35-50 species of small trees and shrubs. The wax coating on the fruit is indigestible for most birds, but a few species have adapted to be able to eat it, notably the Yellow-rumped Warbler in North America. As the wax is very energy-rich, this enables the Yellow-rumped Warbler to winter further north in cooler climates than any other American warbler if bayberries are present. The seeds are then dispersed in the birds' droppings.
The wax coating on the fruit of several species, known as Bayberry wax, has been used traditionally to make candles. The foliage of Myrica gale is a traditional insect repellant, used by campers to keep biting insects out of tents. Myrica is used to spice beer and snaps in Denmark. In the famous novel, the Swiss Family Robinson used them to make candles.