Many native plants offer an interesting and useful palette of selections to enhance our landscapes and garden designs. Some native plants look nicer than others and one such plant that offers great ornamental appeal and “beauty” is the beautyberry or Callicarpa americana. This native plant found locally almost everywhere provides seasonal color and appeal with both flowers and berries.
The beautyberry is classified as a large deciduous shrub which grows to five to eight feet tall and wide. The four-to eight-inch-long fuzzy leaves are arranged in an opposite pattern along branches which slightly arch towards the ground. In June, lavender-pink flower clusters form at the base of leaves and continue blooming throughout the summer. These attractive flowers are followed by iridescent, ball-like clusters of bright purplish fruit that envelop the branches like gobs of snail eggs. These fruits will persist on the branches for some time adding to their ornamental quality. These bright fruits are well-favored by birds which often scatter seeds further expanding the range of beautyberry shrubs. Beautyberries will have the most impact when planted in mass about three feet apart but will also work in the landscape as a screen or as individual specimens. Not a shrub to be sheared, but rather selectively thinned to maintain the mass of flowers and subsequent fruit display. If needed, prune in early spring as the flowers and fruit develop on new wood. Plant in full sun or dappled shade as may be found in native, natural areas.
The beautyberry is a Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ approved shrub that is very drought-tolerant once established. It is not salt-tolerant however, so it does best within inland landscapes.
Now, you may be fortunate enough to have beautyberry shrubs already growing on your property. As birds move the seeds around these shrubs often pop up unexpectedly by natural dispersion. I have had several over the years show up in almost weedy regularity. If you do not have such history, beautyberry shrubs are readily available from regional native nurseries in our area. If you want to start your own, find a friend with a specimen in their landscape and use either seeds or softwood cuttings to propagate.
To expand your collection of beautyberry shrubs, try a white-fruited variety. There is one called ‘Lactea’ that has white, pearl-like fruit, and one named ‘Russell Montgomery’ with especially nice white berries.
The beautyberry fruit is edible and makes a nice lavender-shaded jam or jelly. However, that being said, it does need a good deal of sugar – not the tastiest!
When it comes to native plants, the beautyberry is high on my list of favorites! For more information on all types of native plants suitable for our area, please or to ask a question, you can also call the Master Gardener Volunteer Helpdesk on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for UF/IFAS Extension – Charlotte County. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Connect with us on social media. Like us on Facebook @CharlotteCountyExtension and follow us on Instagram @ifascharco.
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2022) The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.
UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions (2022) Florida’s Edible Native Plants. The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.
Gilman, E. F.,. Klein, R. W & Hansen, G. (2022) Callicarpa americana – American Beautyberry. The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.
UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions (2022) Beautyberry. The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.
Salinas, M. (2014) Florida Native Plants: Beautyberry. The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS – Santa Rosa County.