Imagine yourself living in the 18th century. Electricity had not been invented as of yet and life was a bit more labor intensive. Much of the lighting after the sun went down was done with candles. Candles during that time period were made with tallow (fat from meat), bees wax, or bayberry wax. Bayberry wax was used by the more wealthy population as it took 15 pounds of small bayberries to make one pound of wax. Unlike tallow candles, bayberry candles have a very pleasant smell.
Bayberry shrubs are native shrubs commonly found along the coastal plains from Maine to Delaware. Further south, a similar species of bush grows called the wax myrtle. The bayberry has small bluish-white berries which are often eaten by many species of birds. These shrubs are not tolerant of shade or pruning. In the woods or if pruned they tend to be much smaller. If you are interested in planting bayberry in your landscape, it is important to note that there are male and female shrubs (fruit on females).
We recently held a bayberry candle making program with the staff of the John Dickinson Plantation. This is an annual program and will be held again in the fall of 2011. We encourage you to participate in and enjoy future programs!