Name: Myrica pensylvanica aka bayberry
Type of Plant: Native shrub or small tree for full sun and sandy soils
Why I Love/Hate this plant: In dry summers, this is one of the plants that shows little sign of drought stress. This shrub is either male or female (dioecious) and if you want berries you need both. But female or male, you have a plant that is nitrogen fixing so will grow in sandy soils. I like this plant because the berries are eaten by warblers, evening grosbeaks, gray catbirds, tree swallows, brown thrashers, eastern bluebirds and European starlings. I like that you can shear it at 3 to 4 feet high, cut it to the ground every spring, or let it grow into a multi-stemmed small tree.
Our native bayberry can be used as a seasoning, much as the bayleaf (Laurus nobilis) is traditionally added when cooking.
A Word to the Wise: This shrub suckers, meaning it spreads to the sides. This is good news if you want a plant to hold soil on a slope in full or part sun. But if you want a plant that won’t spread from side to side, this isn’t for you.