Plant of the day: wax myrtle

The berries of the California wax myrtle look like they are made from grains of purple wax, all pressed together into a ball. You can see them now, growing close to the stem in the Bishop pine forests of Point Reyes (and elsewhere). This small tree (Morella californica) has long, narrow leaves with pointy tips.

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Both the coating and the pulp of the berries contain wax, which can be gleaned by boiling them. The wax is said to make a pleasant-smelling candle if enough is collected. The berries, while not toxic, are not said to be tasty either (I admit I’ve never tried them). They also can be used to make a purple dye.

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