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Callicarpa americana

Common Name(s):
American beautyberry
Cultivar(s):
C. america var. lectea, C. americana var. lactea
Categories:
Native Plants, Shrubs
Comment:

American Beautyberry or French Mulberry

This drought tollerant native deciduous shrub in the  Lamiaceae family may reach heights of 8 feet but typicaly grows to 4 feet.  It is found in zones 5 to 8 and grows best in full sun, but will tolerate some shade, though there will be a reduction in flower and fruit production in the shade.  It tolerates wet planting sites but prefers well-drained soil.  It has a loose or open, arching habit, which, along with the 3 ½ to 6-inch long leaves, gives this plant a course texture.  It is best used in a natural area or mass planted.  The leaves of the Beautyberry are opposite in arrangement and the color is a light green.  In the fall the leaves turn a lovely shade of yellowy green. This plant is seldom damaged by deer.

The flowers of the American Beautyberry appear on new growth where the leaves meet the stem giving them the appearance of surrounding the branch.  The light lavender-pink flowers appear June through August to add a little summer color to the landscape. 

The real beauty of this plant is the unusual ¼ inch purple fruit that surrounds the stem in the fall.  The fruit ripens for an extended period of time so as the birds eat some of the fruit there is still more ripening to keep the color.  Cut back severely in late fall to produce the most berries next year.  Flowers and berries appear on new shoots.

There are other species of beautyberry in the landscape trade.  The most common is the Callicarpa dichotoma or Purple Beautyberry with a more compact, dense habit and smaller fruits and leaves.  This plant is an introduction from China or Japan and also grows in zones 5 to 8.   Avoid excessive fertilizer.

Regions:  Piedmont, Coastal plains

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom: Summer June-August    Fruit: Fall-Winter, berry

Wildlife Value:  This plant is moderately resistant to damage from deer.  Its fruits are eaten by catbirds and other songbirds, small mammals, white-tailed deer and black bear.  It is a very important fall food for migrant songbirds. 

Seed: Drupe

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  This plant is low maintenance and does not suffer from insect or disease problems.

Compare this plant to: Callicarpa dichotoma

 

 

Height:
3-6 ft.
Foliage:
The leaves of the beautyberry are opposite, simple, medium green. They have 3-6 in. long, loose, open stems. The leaves turn a yellow-green fall color.
Flower:
Callicarpa americana, commonly called beautyberry, is a loose open shrub valued for its spectacular fruits. The relatively insignificant flowers develop into prolific bright violet to magenta berry-like drupes which encircle the stem. These fruits remain attractive for a long time although they are generally gone before severe winter weather.
Zones:
6-10
Habit:
Deciduous
Site:
This native plant prefers the soil of its natural forest floor habitat - a moist clay or sand enriched with organic matter. It will fruit most abundantly in full sun but may be grown in light shade. The plant needs minimal care once its roots are established. This shrub may be pruned back to about 2' less than the desired size. It can be propagated by cuttings or from seed.
Texture:
Coarse
Form:
Semi-formal, oval to rounded; upswept, arching branches
Exposure:
Sun to partial shade; dry to moist soil
Fruit:
Clusters of glossy pink-purple to red-violet berries in fall
Width:
3-6 ft.
Tags:
play, showy fruit, deciduous, fall interest, low maintenance, winter interest, birds, playground, wet, children’s garden, wet soil, berry, wet site, showy, wildlife, deer resistant, clay soil

NCCES plant id: 448

Callicarpa americana flowers
Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY - 2.0
Callicarpa americana entire plant
Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY - 2.0
Callicarpa americana leaves & berries
Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY - 2.0
Callicarpa americana branch with berries
Forest and Kim Starr, CC BY - 2.0