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U.S. Forest Service


Wax occurs in almost all vascular plants as a constituent of the cuticle, although few plants have pronounced accumulations. Wax acts as a protective coating on the epidermis of leaves, stems, and fruits, reducing desiccation or abrasion, or resisting pest attack.

The wax coating on the fruit of several species of native bayberry (Myrica cerifera) have been traditionally used to make candles. The berries were boiled and the remaining liquid was allowed to cool. Wax was then removed as it solidified. Novelty candles are still made today because of the pleasant fragrance when they burn.

Mountain monardella. Wax myrtle or bayberry (Myrica cerifera), used to make candles. Ted Bodner @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database from Miller and Miller 2005.

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus). Bayberry Candles made from blue waxy covering on bayberry plant.

Euphorbia antisyphilitica. Candelilla, Euphorbia antisyphilitica. Photo by Patrick J. Alexander, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.

Another wax comes from the succulent stems of candelilla, Euphorbia antisyphilitica, which is native to the Chihuahuan Desert along the United States and Mexican border. In the United States, collection of candelilla is forbidden because the species is considered endangered.