Tag Archives: larval host

Fast Growing Privacy Screen: Wax Myrtle

Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera or Morella cerifera) a.k.a. Southern Bayberry is an evergreen, which is native to the U.S. It is versatile and will work for most landscapes. It can be used alone as a specimen or group together to form quick growing hedges or privacy screen.

Makes a great specimen alone or grouped as a privacy screen

Makes a great specimen alone or grouped as a privacy screen

Wax myrtle has multiple stems growing from a common root collar. Left unpruned, it will become a multitrunk tree, which can reach heights of 25 feet but is normally maintained at 10 to 15 feet.

Female plants produce prolific amounts of berries to feed wildlife

Female plants produce prolific amounts of berries to feed wildlife

Propagation is by underground runners, which extend the growth laterally.  Seed germination is possible if the waxy coating is removed. This likely occurs in the digestive systems of birds that eat the berries so it is possible that birds help provide “propagation by nature” in disturbed areas or along fences where they rest.

“Wax-myrtle is a popular ornamental because it grows quickly, responds well to pruning, and is heavily clothed in attractive evergreen foliage.”

It has the ability to grow in a variety of habitats but prefers moist, sandy soils and is a great addition for areas that may experience flooding, yet it proves to be a wonderful, drought-tolerant species once established. It is also salt-tolerant, does well in full sun to partial shade but the growth will be considerably thinner in total shade.  It is recommended for street planting especially beneath powerlines because it looks great in any shape. It is hurricane wind resistant.

It provides excellent cover for wildlife. Wild turkey, bob-white quail, various waterfowl, catbirds, thrashers, bluebirds, vireos, warblers, tree swallows, squirrels and other mammals are some of the species who rely on its berries as a winter food source. Mockingbirds use it to build well hidden nests albeit some of them prove to be “decoy” nests apparently set up to throw off other birds or the birds of prey.

birds find nesting cover within the branches of Wax Myrtle

birds find nesting cover within the branches of Wax Myrtle

It is dioecious and only female plants have fruits provided there is a male nearby for pollination. It has subtle yet pretty blooms in the spring. It is a larval host for Red-banded Hairstreak Butterfly, which use the leaf litter below the plant as the host, another good reason to leave your leaves in place. It is a larval host for the Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) and serves as a nesting zone for yellow garden spiders and other beneficial creepy crawlies.

colorful blooms

colorful blooms

It’s functional uses transcend into the home as the wax coated fruits can be used to make scented candles and the leaves can be used to make a pale yellow shade of dye. Although there is no scientific proof that it repels fleas, my dogs have not been treated with chemicals and yet they have no fleas. On the one occasion that I did see fleas, I made an infusion from the leaves and sprayed the dogs. The next day the fleas were gone.  If you crush the leaves and rub them on your arms and legs it will repel biting flies.

Glorious scents and thick greens make it a nice tabletop bouquet

Glorious scents and thick greens make it a nice tabletop bouquet

This plant does have two minor downsides, although they are quite workable and certainly don’t warrant passing this beauty up:  It should not be planted too close to structures as it has oils contained in the leaves that could ignite in a fire. It is larval host for what is considered to be the most toxic stinging caterpillar in the United States, the puss caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis). The caterpillars are hardly prolific and can be easily swept into a container while wearing gloves and moved to an untravelled area of your yard.

Warblers flock to Myrica cerifera to feast on waxy berries

Warblers flock to Myrica cerifera to feast on waxy berries

Wax Myrtle gives a myriad of wildlife entertainment and other benefits to those who choose it for their landscapes.

There will be a great selection of Florida Native Plants to provide biodiversity in your yard at the 4th Annual Central Florida Native Plant Sale.  A follow-up to the Florida Association of Native Nurseries Trade Show each year at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, this years’ event takes place on Thursday and Friday March 31 and April 1 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday April 2 from 9 a.m. until noon.

Loret 2016


Van Deelen, Timothy R. 1991. Myrica cerifera. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [2016, March 20].

Loret T. Setters. Wildly Wonderous Wax Myrtle, Beautiful Wildlife Garden. 2010. http://web.archive.org/web/20101205083930/http://www.beautifulwildlifegarden.com/wildly-wonderous-wax-myrtle.html

Florida Native Plant Society. http://www.fnps.org/plants/plant/myrica-cerifera


Shrubs: Beautyberry, Wax Myrtle, Firebush, Walter’s viburnum and more!

Just a small sampling of the many shrubs which will be available at the sale.  Shop EARLY for best selection. Some sell out quickly.

© Maple Street Natives

© Maple Street Natives

Click on the name to learn planting conditions:


False Indigo

Wax Myrtle

Simpson stopper


Walter’s viburnum

Wild coffee


Cercis canadensis (EASTERN REDBUD)

beeRedbud030911AGiving pollinators an head start, bright pink flowers greet you before the leaves develop each spring on the eastern redbud tree. Attains a height of 25-30 ft. making it a perfect specimen for a smaller garden.

Larval host: Henry’s elfin (Callophrys henrici) and io moth (Automeris io). Popular with bees.

Learn more:  http://www.fnps.org/plants/plant/cercis-canadensis

Amorpha fruticosa (BASTARD FALSE INDIGO)

Amorpha fruticosa (BASTARD FALSE INDIGO) is a deciduous shrub with lacey leaves. It can be used as a specimen, screen, hedge, or background plant growing to a height of 6-12ft.

Larval host for butterfly: southern dogface (Zerene cesonia), gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus), and silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

Attracts pollinators

Learn planting conditions: http://www.fnps.org/plants/plant/amorpha-fruticosa

Asclepias incarnata (SWAMP MILKWEED)

Photo by Peg Urban

Monarch Butterfly Adult and Larvae on Milkweed the Larval Host

Want to help increase the Monarch butterfly population (Danaus plexippus)? Want more pollinators to visit? Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) will not only entice adults but as a larval host for Danaus spp. will get them to stay in your garden to lay eggs and start the next generation.

This self-seeding perennial is also a larval host for the queen butterfly (D. gilippus) and soldier butterfly (D. eresimus).

A Native Milkweed Research Update indicates that use of the Non-native Tropical Milkweed (A. currasivica), the most common commercially available milkweed may have undesirable affects on monarch populations. You can read about information provided by Jaret C. Daniels, Ph.D., Assistant Curator of Lepidoptera, University of Florida IFAS Assistant Professor of Entomology, Florida Museum of Natural History: http://www.floridanativenurseries.org/info/native-news/native-milkweed-research-update/

If you raise butterflies, In order to assure healthy adult Monarchs, follow Monarch Watch’s instructions to avoid passing on the parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha. http://www.monarchwatch.org/biology/control.htm

Learn planting conditions for this species of milkweed: http://www.fnps.org/plants/plant/asclepias-incarnata

Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)

hummingbird032611Want Hummingbirds? How about butterflies? A CORAL HONEYSUCKLE; TRUMPET HONEYSUCKLE (Lonicera sempervirens) will entice them. Good cover for mammals and birds will build nests within.

Bright red showy flowers on this hearty vine. Evergreen except in colder northern areas of Florida. Train on an arbor, fence or other support or let it grow as a ground cover.

Larval Host for butterfly: Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) (in its range); moth: Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) and Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia).

Learn planting conditions: http://fnps.org/plants/plant/lonicera-sempervirens


Laurel Oak (Quercus laurifolia)

Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)

Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)

Want Tufted Titmice? How about butterflies? A LAUREL OAK (Quercus laurifolia) tree will entice them. The birds love the acorns.

Larval host: Horaces Duskywing (Erynnis horatius) and White M Hairstreak (Parrhasius m-album) butterflies.

Learn planting conditions: http://www.fnps.org/plants/plant/quercus-laurifolia