Shrubs with alternate, resinous-dotted, often fragrant leaves, with the flowers monoecious or dioecious, achlamydeous, both kinds in scaly aments. Stamens 2 to 8. Ovary 1-celled, with 1 erect ovule; stigmas 2, filiform. Fruit dry or drupaceous, indehiscent. Seed with no albumen.
Genera 3. species 20, found in the temperate parts of N. America, in India and S. Africa, and one species in Europe. Sweet Fern is highly aromatic and astringent. The fruit of the Bay-berry bush yields wax abundantly.
1. MYRI'CA, L. Candleberry Myrtle. (Gr. to perfume,
The name anciently designated the Tamarind tree.) Flowers . -
Aments .. cylindrical, small, ovoid-capitate.Stamens 4 to 6,
short, erect, anthers large, 4-valved. Ovary 1 to each bract, with 3 scales at its base, superior; styles 2, spreading; stigmas 2, acute; drupe 1-celled, 1-seeded, covered with wax or resinous dots. Stip. very fugacious or 0.
1 M. Gale L. Sweet Gale. Dutch Myrtle. Lvs. clustered, cuneale-lanceolate, obtuse and serrate above, margin very entire and slightly revolute below, tapering to a very short petiole; sterile aments clustered, of ovate, cordate, acuminate, ciliate scales; fr. dotted in an oblong, dense, amentaceous head. - A branching shrub, 3 - 4f high, on the inundated borders of ponds and mountain lakes, Can. to Car. Leaves dark green, paler beneath with a strong midvein, 9 - 18" by 4 - 6", entire 1/3 the length. and aments on separate plants, the former terminal, about 1' in length, the latter axillary and much shorter. Fruit and leaves when crushed, with a pungent, spicy odor. May.
2 M. cerifera L. Bayberry. Wax Myrtle. Lvs. glabrous, cuneale-oblong, rather acute or obtuse, distinctly petiolate, margin entire or remotely undulate-dentate above; aments cotemporary with the leaves, scattered, naked, the larger, with lax, roundish scales; fr. spherical, distinct, clustered, covered with wax. - This interesting and useful shrub is found in dry woods or in open fields, Nova Scotia to Flor., W. to Lake Erie. Height 2 - 8f, covered with a grayish bark. Very branching with numerous dry looking leaves, 18 to 30" by 6 to 9". Aments 6 to 9"long. Drupe 1 1/2" long, covered with white wax, - the bayberry tallow of commerce. May.
3 M. Carolinensis L. Lvs. larger, evergreen, coriaceous, cuneate-elliptical, acute, with about 4 acute teeth near the apex, petiolate; aments solitary or several in the axils of the old leaves; naked, with rounded, acuminate scales. - Swamps, S. Car. to Fla. Shrub 4 to 8f high. Lvs. 3 to 5' by 1 to 2', petiole 1' or less.
Aments as long as the petioles, much shorter. Fruit large, globular. (Pursh. Our specimens in flower,) Mar., Apr.
2. COMPTO'NIA, Soland. Sweet Fern. (In honor of Henry
Compton, Lord Bishop of London.) Flowers 8 , Anient cylindric; bract reniform-cordate, acuminate; calyx-scale 2-parted; stamens 3, forked, each bearing 2 half anthers. Ament ovate; calyx-scales 6, longer than the bract; styles 2; nut ovoid, 1-celled, - Low shrubs. Lvs. long and narrow, pinnatifid-lobed, with small stipules, strongly aromatic.
C. asplenifolia Ait. Lvs. long, linear-lanceolate, alternately sinuate-pinnatifiu-- A shrub 2f high, common in dry woods and hills, Can. to Md. (Shriver) and Wis. (Lapham). The main stem is covered with a rusty brown bark which becomes reddish in the branches, and white downy in the young shoots. Lvs. numerous, on short peduncles, 3 to 4' by 6", divided nearly to the midvein into numerous rounded lobes so as to resemble those of the Spleenwort. Stip. in pairs, acuminate. Barren flowers in erect, cylindric catkins, terminal and lateral. Fertile fls. in a dense, rounded burr or head, situated below the barren one. Fr. a small, ovate, brown, 1-celled nut. May.