Myrica. carolinensis-----Family, Sweet Gale. Color of catkins, green. Leaves, oblong or lance - shape, narrow at base, somewhat toothed along the middle, thin, green on both sides, dotted with resinous glands. The two kinds of flowers are in separate catkins, each with a bract and a second pair of bractlets. 3 to 5 feet high.
Sandy soil, near the coast, pine woods and dry thickets, New England to Florida. A familiar shrub with fragrant leaves owing to resinous drops. The nut-like fruit bears grains of wax which used to be collected and made into candles. These candles, if burned on Hallowe'en, were supposed to keep off witches.
Sweet Gale M. Gale. - Catkins appear in early spring, before the long, narrow, wedge-shaped leaves.
A fragrant, woody, tenacious shrub, 4 or 5 feet high, with bark something like black birch, often small-dotted. The stiff, hard heads of nuts formed from the fertile catkins of flowers might be tiny pine cones. Each nutlet, under the magnifying-glass, shows 3 points, 2 being made from "scales" which cover the seed from the base. Small resinous bits of wax (seen only under the glass) dot the nutlets. The cones. 1/2 inch long, are crowded together on the fruiting branch. A shrub of the swamps from Maine to Virginia.
Robert Beverly, in History of Virginia (published 1705), states that " at the mouths of their rivers, and all along upon the sea and bay, and near many of their creeks and swamps, the myrtle grows, bearing a berry of which they make a hard . brittle wax of a curious green color, which by refining becomes almost transparent. Of this they make candles, which are never greasy to the touch, and do not melt with lying in the hottest weather; neither does the snuff of these ever offend the sense like that of a tallow candle, but, instead of being disagreeable, if an accident put a candle out, it yields a pleasant fragrance to all who are in the room, insomuch that nice people often put them out on purpose to have the incense of the expiring snuff."