Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Dwarf Waxmyrtle - Morella pusilla   (Raf.) Weakley & D.B. Poind.
Members of Myricaceae:
Members of Morella with account distribution info or public map:
Google Images
Section 6 » Family Myricaceae
Author(Raf.) Weakley & D.B. Poind.
DistributionStrictly in the Coastal Plain, where it seems to be present over most of the province. The exact range is not known completely, as this is a recent split. It does not occur in the adjacent Piedmont, as far as known. It may well be absent also from some northern counties in the Coastal Plain.

As expected, this is a Coastal Plain species, ranging from southeastern VA south to FL, and west to LA if not also to eastern TX. Exact details of the range are not well known.
AbundanceReasonably common to locally abundant, as this is a clonal/stoloniferous species. Details of abundance are not known, and certainly it is scarce in a few areas of the Coastal Plain, especially in the northern portions.
HabitatThis is a species of mesic pinelands, for the most part. It grows in pine flatwoods, drier parts of pine savannas, and in pine/scrub oak sandhills. It also can grow well in Mainland Maritime Forest sites, and sparingly in xeric sandhills with Turkey Oak (Quercus laevis). It often does well in the long absence of fire, but as it is stoloniferous and low-growing, it presumably is favored by frequent fire.
PhenologyFlowers in April; fruits from August to October.
IdentificationThis is a low-growing evergreen shrub that often forms extensive colonies. It grows mostly just 1-2 feet tall, but plants often are touching others of the same species, in sizable stands. The leaves are alternate, narrowly oblanceolate and toothed at the tips; however, they grow only to about 1-1.5 inches long. Though Common Waxmyrtle (M. cerifera) often grows close to it, or with it, the two are easily separated by leaf size and colonial nature of this species. (Seedling Common Waxmyrtles should have leaves reaching to 3 inches long.) Also, flowers or fruit on a waxmyrtle only 1-2 feet tall will certainly be this species. Weakley (2018) mentions that this species has a peak flowering period three weeks later than M. cerifera.
Taxonomic CommentsWeakley and Poindexter, in a 2023 issue of Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, argue that the oldest valid species name is pusilla, not pumila. Most references do not recognize either name as a valid species and lump it within M. cerifera; however, Weakley (2018) does, as does this website. Weakley and Poindexter give a number of reasons for elevating it to species status. In fact, most veteran NC field biologists who are familiar with both forms likely would consider each as valid species. At least, RAB (1968) recognized the differences, and named this taxon as a separate variety – var. pumila. In fact, the RAB map shows records for over half of the Coastal Plain counties, ranging to the VA line, whereas the BONAP map is woefully incomplete.

Other Common Name(s)Dwarf Bayberry
State Rank[S4]
Global RankGNR
State Status
US Status
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
Photo Gallery
B.A. SorrieOrton Plantation, Aug 2013. BrunswickPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieWeymouth Woods SNP, Apr 2014.
Select a source
Select an occurrence type