Myrica nagi is a 12-foot-tall plant that is useful as an ornamental shrub or small tree. It grows in any soil type as long as it is well-drained and acidic to neutral. The plant appreciates consistent moisture and full sun or partial shade. In order to flower and fruit, a plant from each sex must be present. The roots of the tree are used as a soil improvement. They have the ability to fix nitrogen onto their roots in nodules, making the nitrogen available to the soil.
Myrica nagi is more commonly known as the box myrtle in the United States. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree that may be found in Malaysia, across the Himalayas and into parts of China and Japan. The plant favors temperate to subtemperate zones and produces a flavorful and edible drupe. All parts of the tree, including the roots, can be used for some purpose.
Box myrtle leaves are pointed and glossy, with a smooth edge. The upper surface is dark green, and the underside is much lighter. The leaves can be used to make a yellowish dye once they're cooked and distilled. The plant also contains high levels of tannin, both in the leaves and also in the bark. Tannin is an astringent that is used to stabilize pesticides, and is also used in medicines and as a dye.
Bark and Wood
Box myrtle wood is close-grained and useful for fuel or for poles in construction. The light brown to black bark is used medicinally. The list of ailments and disorders the plant supposedly cures is long and not medically proven. However, traditional use features the bark as a decoction, an external treatment for topical problems, and when boiled, it yields a thick gelatin that is used on sprains.
The flavorful berries or drupes are highly sought after. The fruit is very juicy and sweet and is eaten raw or cooked. Unfortunately, the fruit only lasts two or three days after harvest, which makes it ineligible for commercial production. The waxy berries must be soaked in hot water to remove the coating. Next, the fruit is also boiled to remove the wax from the pulp. All this is strained and used to make aromatic candles. The candles do not produce smoke and are less greasy in hot weather than beeswax candles.