The Role of Wax Myrtle in a Diverse Wildlife Orchard
Wax myrtle berries are so unattractive to deer that many gardeners plant wax myrtle to stop deer from entering their garden. So why would anyone suggest that people looking for a diverse wildlife orchard should plant it?
Here at Wildtree, we carry wax myrtle for landowners looking for a rich orchard brimming with wildlife. In our experience, while deer don’t like wax myrtle as a food, they do love hiding in the hedges that wax myrtle creates. This makes it a great plant for white-tailed deer orchards.
What Is Wax Myrtle?
Wax myrtle is a low-maintenance, fast-growing evergreen that thrives in areas like Texas, Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, and California. Wax myrtle is hardy in zones 7 to 9 and can thrive even in hardiness zone 10.
As it grows 3 to 5 feet per year, it is a plant that will quickly cover ground and create a useful hedge. Its dense and rich foliage has a characteristic olive-green color that makes it stand out from other bushes and hedge plants and creates beautiful splashes of dark green in the woods.
In early spring, its flowers appear, followed by grayish-white fruit in late summer and through winter. These flowers have given wax myrtle its name, as they are heavily coated with a wax-like substance. Both leaves and berries are used as a food flavoring as they make an aromatic substitute for bay leaves.
However, landscapers rarely use it for its culinary or medicinal properties. Instead, they take advantage of its vibrant color and fast growth to build screens and hedges and to create visually distinct borders and botanical dividers.
Wax myrtle is known for its adaptability: it is salt-tolerant and will not suffer from sea spray. This is a great benefit for land located close to the coast.
Adding to its flexibility is the fact that wax myrtle is generally resistant to heat and drought. This is notably valuable in hot areas like Texas, New Mexico, and California; places that often experience very dry and hot summers. It can also handle periodic flooding and moist soil, which is particularly significant in hurricane-prone areas like Texas and Florida.
Adding to its amazing flexibility is the fact that wax myrtle likes full sunshine but will still grow in medium shade. This makes it a versatile plant for both orchards and open land.
Why Should I Plant Wax Myrtle on My Land?
For deer-loving landowners who are looking to create a land where deer like to linger, wax myrtle offers great potential as it creates a useful thicket where deer like to hide and take cover.
While a number of diverse bushes, shrubs, and short trees can be used to create a dense thicket, mixing in wax myrtle will make these thickets more accommodating to white-tailed deer, who will happily linger and dawdle there.
Weaving wax myrtle into other deer-preferred plants and bushes like pear trees, apple trees, persimmons, and plum trees can create the perfect habitat for your deer population. Even though deer won’t eat the wax myrtle’s leaves or berries, the combination of food and shelter means a new favorite place for them to shelter in.
Wax myrtle is not just for deer, of course. It creates a perfect habitat for wildlife like turkeys and quails to peck at its berries when they ripen. You can even use its leaves to flavor your soups and stews or use the wax covering its berries to make scented candles.
Not Just for Food
Many people focus exclusively on deer-preferred food sources when they are designing their white-tailed deer habitat.
However, if you want a consistent deer population on your land, you need to provide them with more than food: shelter and water are just as important. Wax myrtle can be part of a mix of plants, trees, and shrubs that create places of interest to deer and other wildlife. Its hardiness and flexibility make it suitable for most areas, even those close to the sea.