..................Photo Kathy Mock
My friend Kathy had been birding there and wondered about the identity of this plant with blueish berries. She was excited to see a good number of Yellow-rumped Warblers feeding on the shrub.
Bayberry is better known from the northeastern states- like Vermont- where I was first introduced to the clean "winter" scent of bayberry. The berries are heavily coated with a wax-like substance which is rendered into fragrant candles.
These attractive plants have dark glossy foliage, great for adding fragrance to arrangements and wreaths. The only reason I can possibly fathom for not owning several bayberries is the fact I've never seen them for sale! Just looking at these photos has me absolutely scheming to find some in 2011.
.........................Photo by Dave Lewis
And what about those birds Kathy saw? They were flocks of Yellow-rumped warblers, formerly called Myrtle Warblers. Wax-myrtle, a close relative to bayberry, is another irresistible member of the Myricaceae family. Yellow-rumps are one of the very few birds, and the only warblers, able to digest the waxy substance on these berries. Long noted for feeding extensively on the berries throughout the cold winter months, this ability may provide an edge over other warbler species and allow the normally insectivorous birds a more northern winter range.
And how did that bayberry patch get in Salt Fork? It is not likely to have been planted, as most folks don't landscape their wetlands. A better guess: the Yellow-rumps planted this winter Eden from seeds passed through their digestive tracks. I wholly approve!