Myrica californica — Pacific Wax Myrtle
Myrica californica, most commonly called Pacific wax myrtle, is an evergreen shrub that grows from 10-30 ft. tall and 10-12-ft. wide. It is native to the coast and coastal valleys from the Santa Monica Mountains to Vancouver Island and is without a doubt one of the most versatile, best looking, and truly adaptable large natives for Sonoma County gardens.
Although myrica tolerates only occasional irrigation, its appearance is enhanced with regular waterings when it can grow as much as 2-4 ft. a year. At this rate, its dense branching from the ground up is a good choice for quickly screening a wall or unsightly view or for protecting privacy. 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.
Where a dense tree or shrub is not wanted, train myrica into a multi-trunked shape by removing all lower branches. This versatile native tree can also be shaped into a manicured hedge as well as to a symmetrical, medium–sized shrub. 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 background interest to a perennial garden. Inconspicuous flowers yield purplish brown, waxy fruit attractive to birds such as flickers, finches, and robins.
Besides in garden situations, Pacific wax myrtle performs in the most demanding environments such as along freeways or near windy shorelines. 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 Mackerrick State Park north of Ft. Bragg.
This easy-care species adapts to sandy, loamy or clay soil and is best planted in full, open sunlight in coastal areas but prefers afternoon shade inland. It tolerates some continued shade, but shrubs that grow in dim sites tend to lose portions of their lush foliage as they continually reach for light.
The plants are generally long-lived. However, they can suffer from pests such as thrips, spider mites and whiteflies. Deer generally ignore them.