The genus Myrica comes from the Greek name for tamarisk. The specific epithet gale is an old name with an unknown origin.
Indigenous people had several uses for Sweetgale. The Ojibwe boiled the seed to create a yellow dye. The Potawatomi burned the plant to make a smudge to repel mosquitos, as well as lining the basket for picking blueberries to prevent spoilage.
Back in the day, Sweetgale was a traditional component of royal wedding bouquets. Queen Victoria was given a sprig of Sweetgale, which she then planted. Her daughter grew some of the plants and put them into her wedding bouquet, creating a tradition that was most recently used in the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding to Prince William.
On a small scale, Myrica species have a waxy coating on their leaves and ‘berries’ which were extracted to make aromatic candles. Unfortunately, Sweetgale does not produce enough wax to make this a viable option for large-scale wax production.
Modern resources state that dried nutlets can be used as a seasoning or spice. Plants should not be used or consumed by expecting or soon-to-be-expecting mothers.
For you plant nerds: While typically dioecious, this species has been known to be monoecious and even change sex from year to year.
One study showed that extracts from the fruits and leaves exhibited allelopathic against different plants, including Fallopia x bohemica, Bohemian Knotweed; a highly invasive, non-native plant that has been found in Wisconsin.