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What is Myrtlewood?


Myrtlewood Trees
Common Name: Oregon Myrtlewood, Pepperwood, Bay Laurel
Latin Name: Umbellularia californica
Family: Lauraceae (Laurel)

The Tree

Oregon Myrtlewood is a broadleaf evergreen native to Southwestern Oregon and Northwestern California. It grow prolifically in this coastal region. The Umpqua River watershed appears to be the northern boundary of its native habitat. and it grows east into the Roseburg area and then south along the riverbanks and in various groves in the hills in the coast range.

The Myrtle tree grows 60-120’ in the wild. It is very slow growing putting on only 1-12" of growth during each of its first few years. They may take 80-120 years to reach full size. It is often multi trunk but can be kept pruned to a single trunk tree. When growing in the open it tends to have a dense, rounded, ‘gumdrop shape’. On a shady hillside it grows much taller and narrower.They can be pruned to fit nicely in small areas or indoors. Myrtlewood tolerates many conditions, but grows best and fastest in deep soil with lots of compost, ample water and full sun.

Myrtlewood trees will regrow from their stump and are also grown from their seeds. They have a strong root system which helps regenerate the species in the wild. New sprouts flourish from cut stumps, windfalls, and nurse logs. They are difficult to transplant from the wild due to their deep tap root system. However nursery grown potted trees develop a more fibrous root system which can easily be repotted or transplanted at any time of year.

The leaves are 3-5 inches long, 1 inch wide, pointed at the tip, medium green, glossy on top, and dull light green beneath. The crushed leaves have a powerful aromatic scent which can be used as a sure identification. The leaves are frequently used in cooking as a substitute for True Bay (Lauris nobilis), and are also noted as a flea repellant when freshly crushed. The Myrtlewood has clusters of small yellow flowers (or umbels) which bloom in late winter and olive like seeds or nuts which usually fall from the trees in the fall.

In the Bible, the Myrtle tree is of special religious significance, representing fertility and life. Although a larger tree with a little different flower type, Oregon Myrtlewood has a lot of similarities to the Myrtlewood growing in the Holy Land. "Instead of the brier shall come up the Myrtle tree" Isaiah 55:13
Myrtlewood Leaves

Myrtlewood trees can be seen where they have been planted around town, along the river banks, or along many of the highways and backroads of the surrounding South coast range. Highway 38 & 138 from about 12 miles east of Reedsport toward Roseburg is lined with lots of Myrtle trees. Humbug Park, South of Port Orford on 101, is another good place to view full grown Myrtlewood Trees.

To grow your own Myrtlewood we now have little potted Myrtlewood Trees available. We encourage our customers and our suppliers to help plant more trees for the future generation.

The Wood

Oregon Myrtlewood possesses a wide variety of beautiful colors and grain patterns and is noted by many as being one of the world’s most beautiful woods.

The color of the wood is often influenced by the minerals in the soil where it grows which could be a factor in its popularity here on the Oregon coast. The colors range from blond to black with many shades of honey, browns, satiny grays, with reds and greens in between. Because of the wide variety of colors, it is difficult to "match" a piece of myrtlewood you already have. But it is very easy to find a piece of myrtlewood that will "compliment" most other wood products in your home..

Common Myrtle
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Common Myrtle
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Common Myrtle
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Common Myrtle
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Black Myrtle
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Honey Myrtle
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Tiger Myrtle
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Spalted Myrtle
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Fiddleback Myrtle
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Fiddleback Myrtle
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Myrtle Burl
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Myrtle Burl
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Oregon Myrtlewood became popular for making gift items back in the early 1900’s. It is a hardwood which takes many finishes well. Oregon woodworkers have developed a small cottage industry making handcrafted Myrtlewood products and gifts for visitors and residents of the area. Many beautiful gifts and works of art crafted out of Myrtlewood by over 80 different Oregon Artists are displayed online and at The Myrtlewood Gallery in Reedsport.