Print This Page

American Beautyberry



Callicarpa americana


cal-eh-CAR-pah a-mer-ee-KAHN-uh


Deciduous – Part sun / Shade


Height – 4'-8'


Spread 5'-8'


HABIT: Sprawling native shrub with insignificant pink flowers in spring and extremely showy purple berries in fall, which last into the winter. Versatile, carefree plant. White berried plants are available. Native eastern USA to Texas.


American beautyberry grows 3-5 ft. tall and usually just as wide but can reach 9 ft. in height in favorable soil and moisture conditions. It has long, arching branches and yellow-green fall foliage. Its most striking feature is clusters of glossy, iridescent-purple fruit (sometimes white) that hug the branches at leaf axils in the fall and winter.


Bark is light brown on the older wood, reddish brown on younger wood. It is smooth, with elongate, raised corky areas (lenticels). Twigs are round to 4 sided, covered with branched hairs visible under a l0x hand lens. Leaves are in pairs or in threes, blades half as wide as long and up to 9 inches long, ovate to elliptic, pointed or blunt at the tip and tapered to the base. Margins are coarsely toothed except toward the base and near the tip, teeth pointed or rounded. Lower surface of young leaves are covered with branched hairs. Flowers are small, pink, in dense clusters at the bases of the leaves, clusters usually not exceeding the leaf petioles. Fruit are distinctly colored, rose pink or lavender pink, berrylike, about 1/4 inch long and 3/16 inch wide, in showy clusters, persisting after the leaves have fallen.


CULTURE: Well-drained soil is important but so is soil moisture. Adapts to most any soil type. Easy to grow. Does not work well for cutting – berries fall off. Native Distribution: VA to AR, s. to FL & e. TX. Found in woods, moist thickets, wet slopes, low rich bottomlands, and at the edges of swamps in the Piney Woods, Post Oak Woods, Blackland woodlands, and coastal woodlands. Moist woods; coastal plains; swamp edges, bottomlands. Can be pruned severely right before new growth begins in the spring to control size or refresh an older plant, Prevent complete soil dryness.


USES: Free form shrub or mass planting. Fall berry color. The seeds and berries are important foods for many species of birds, particularly the Northern Bobwhite. Foliage is a favorite of white-tailed deer.


PROBLEMS: Needs more water than most native plants.


NOTES: American beautyberry is a wonderful, large under story shrub with a naturally loose and graceful arching form. In the fall and early winter, the branches are laden with magenta purple (sometimes white) berry clusters that look spectacular as the leaves drop in autumn. It is useful as a screen in swampy or wooded locations or under shade trees in a garden setting. It can be cut to 12 above the base each winter to encourage more compact growth, flowers and fruit. It can also be left to mature naturally into a tall woody shrub. The shrub may temporarily defoliate and lose developing fruit during periods of prolonged summer drought.


White Beautyberry photo by Roberta Churchin





  Search Library Topics      Search Newspaper Columns