Morella pumila

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Common names: Dwarf wax-myrtle[1]

Morella pumila
Morella pumila GF.jpg
Photo by Gary Fleming at the Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicots
Order: Fagales
Family: Myricaceae
Genus: Morella
Species: M. pumila
Binomial name
Morella pumila
Natural range of Morella pumila from Weakley[2]

Taxonomic Notes

Synonyms: Myrica pusilla Rafinesque, Morella cerifera (Linnaeus) Small, Myrica cerifera Linnaeus var. pumila Michaux, and Cerothamnus pumilus (Michaux) Small.[1]

Varieties: none.[1]


M. pumila, also known as Dwarf Wax-Myrtle, is a native perennial that varies in growth habit from an evergreen shrub and subshrub to tree growth. It is a member of the Myricaceae family, and can grow up to 6 feet high. The species is dioecious, with aromatic leaves and root nodules that help fix nitrogen in the soil. As well, it has rhizomatous roots which can propagate to form new growth.[3]

M. pumila has staminate flowers with 3-5 stamens, fruit that are 2.0-3.5 mm in diameter, leaves that are serrate, oblanceolate, 0.5-1.5 cm wide and 4-6x as long. Its branches are 1.5-4 cm long and 3-8 mm wide.[1]


M. pumila is a southeastern Coastal Plain endemic, ranging from Virginia to Florida and west to Louisiana.[1] It is also native to Puerto Rico, and has been introduced to Hawaii.[3]



The species can be found in relatively moist to extremely dry sites, including sandhills, savannas, and pine flatwoods.[4] M. pumila has been observed in small clearings beside roads.[5]

Associated species - Vaccinium darrowi, Pityopsis spp.[5]

Morella pumila is frequent and abundant in the Panhandle Silty Longleaf Woodlands and Central Florida Flatwoods/Prairies community types as described in Carr et al. (2010).[6]


M. pumila flowers in April and fruits from August through October.[4]

Seed dispersal

The species is mainly dispersed through animal consumption.[7]

Seed bank and germination

The species requires a period of cold, moist stratification before germinating, where an average germination time is a month to 90 days. However, wax myrtles can also be propagated from semi-hardwood and soft cuttings treated with a rooting hormone.[3]

Fire ecology

M. pumila resprouts rapidly after a fire is applied.[8] Populations have been known to persist through repeated annual burning.[9]

Herbivory and toxicology

M. pumila is used by wild birds as a source of food, and the branches are also utilized by wild birds for nesting and perching habitat. It is a minor source of food for large mammals, water birds, and terrestrial birds, and a low source of food for small mammals.[3]

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

This Wax-Myrtle is popular for cultivation due to its ornamental value. M. pumila is also a good plant to use for native area restoration in its native communities like sandy coastal and woodland communities. It is a good plant for dune stabilization and further restoration.[3]

Cultural use

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Weakley, A.S. 2015. Flora of the southern and mid-atlantic states. Working Draft of 21 May 2015. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  2. Weakley, Alan S. 2015. Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States: Working Draft of 21 May 2015. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 1320 pp.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 USDA Plants Database URL:
  4. 4.0 4.1 Weakley, A. S. (2015). Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States. Chapel Hill, NC, University of North Carolina Herbarium.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: Last accessed: June 2018. Collectors: Loran C. Anderson and Ron Miller. States and counties: Florida: Santa Rosa.
  6. Carr, S.C., K.M. Robertson, and R.K. Peet. 2010. A vegetation classification of fire-dependent pinelands of Florida. Castanea 75:153-189.
  7. Kirkman, L.K. and K.L. Coffey, unpublished database of dispersal modes of plants found at the Jones Ecological Research Center, Ichauway, Georgia.
  8. Comment by Jimi Cheak on post by Edwin Bridges, Polk County Fl., February 23, 2018, posted to Florida Flora and Ecosystematics Facebook Group.
  9. Platt, W.J., R. Carter, G. Nelson, W. Baker, S. Hermann, J. Kane, L. Anderson, M. Smith, K. Robertson. 2021. Unpublished species list of Wade Tract old-growth longleaf pine savanna, Thomasville, Georgia.