The Beauty in a Berry

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American beautyberry, Callicarpa americana. photo credit: Tristan Wheelock
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Me with beautyberry. photo credit: Tristan Wheelock

The Florida native shrub known as American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), is beautiful on so many levels.

It’s easy to find in our state parks, look for the wild and brilliant berry spires that ripen from green to purple from mid summer to early winter.

The really beautiful reason why the berries ripen slowly along the branch that way is so that songbirds can have a long-lived food source over a period of months in the winter.

screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-10-18-49-pmscreen-shot-2016-10-07-at-10-20-10-pmBeautyberry loses its leaves in winter, but will sometimes hold on to its bright berries far into the season. And sometimes, just when the last berry is eaten or fallen, the buds of spring will begin.

When beautyberry loses its leaves, it reminds us that Florida does have seasonal changes. If our urban and suburban landscapes had more native plantings, we would see more of those changes right out our doors.

It will last in an arrangement if it’s fairly early in the season and it’s handled delicately.

Floral arrangement with beautyberry
American beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, in a floral arrangement.
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photo credit: Sarasota Green Pottery

Beautyberry holds secrets for humans. Its berries are edible (most make a jam) and its leaves, when crushed and rubbed on your skin, stuffed in your pockets or made into a salve have mosquito-repelling qualities.

American beautyberry is very easy to grow in a Florida garden. It’s adaptable to many conditions. As an understory shrub, I find it grows best in light shade and with average moisture.

Our nursery stocks it all the time. www.floridanativeplants.com

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