Beautyberry; Callicarpa americana
You may see this unique plant while hiking along a wooded trail, planted as a garden specimen, or even—on a rare occasion—nestled into the bark of a palm tree.
The genus Callicarpa is a Greek word meaning ‘beautiful’ and ‘fruit’, while the specific epithet, americana, refers to its native origin in the Americas. This Florida native is easy to grow and is attractive to butterflies and birds. The dense growth provides birds and other wildlife space to raise young as well as shelter from predators.
Small, lavender-pink flowers are produced on new growth in the spring or early summer, and remain somewhat hidden beneath the light green foliage. These inconspicuous flowers transform into abundant clusters of bright magenta berries which encircle the stems from summer through fall. A rarer form of beautyberry, Callicarpa americana var. lactea, produces white flowers and white berries. Any fresh berries the birds have not devoured will dry up and turn black when the leaves fall off for the winter, providing food for birds well into the colder months.
This long-lived perennial prefers full sun to dappled shade and moist soils, but can be drought tolerant in the shade. Beautyberry has a wide tolerance to soil types, growing in sand, loam or clay, and can tolerate pH levels from 5.2 to 7.0. While not salt tolerant, it does exhibit hurricane wind resistance.
When selecting a location for this loosely arranged, rounded shrub, plan for the plants mature size, which can range from five to eight feet tall and equally as wide. If planting a hedge, space plants 48 to 60 inches apart. These fast growing shrubs may be pruned in late fall or early spring since flowers are produced on new growth.
Beautyberry is easy to propagate via seed, of which there are plenty, or softwood cuttings. To grow from seed, wait until it is ripe to collect, squeeze from the fleshy fruit, clean with water, then sow immediately; or allow to dry and store at room temperature if planting the following late winter or early spring. For softwood cuttings, be sure to use sterile potting media and a rooting hormone, and provide adequate humidity until rooted.
Beautyberry is a favorite among people and wildlife alike, is easy to grow, and is virtually pest-free.