Charlotte Foraging #3:- Bayberries (Myrica cerfera)

Gathering bayberry berries is not as easy as picking apples off of a tree. These berries really cling to their branches plus they are really tiny.

Botanists refer to the bayberry berry as a “drupe” which in the botany world is a fruit in which the outer fleshy part surrounds a shell with a seed inside. Other types of drupes are peaches, plums, olives, etc.

Enough of the botany talk, we were interested in experimenting with the wax properties of the drupes. So two large bayberry trees and 5+ cups of berries later we had sore hands and enough boiled off wax for one tea candle that sputtered more than it burned.

The flame didn't last much past the this photo shot.
The flame didn’t last much past the this photo shot.

Somehow I think the photo makes the candle look lots more impressive then it was in actuality.

While my foraging buddy Marty and I were pulling the drupes off of the branches, we wondered how many people would be curious about what we were doing. Many people passed by without a glance or comment but finally several groups did ask and seemed interested.

I’ve done some googling and found out there are lots of medical uses for parts of the bayberry bush. Somewhere I read that the bayberry leaves can be used like bay leaves for stews and soups. They certainly look the same.

I have located several other bayberry bushes around Charlotte for possible harvesting next year if we want to try to make bayberry candles again.


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