A real American beauty

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Birds are attracted to this native,
American beautyberry.

American beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, is a native shrub that postions itself at the edges of hammocks and pinelands.  It attracts butterflies in the spring and summer with delicate pink flowers, and then supplies grape-colored clusters of fruit for mockingbirds and catbirds in the fall and winter.  Its leaves are fairly large with serrated edges, and the twigs sometimes stick straight out before elongating to droop and create a mounding effect.

It’s in the verbena family and counts among its relatives fiddlewood, lantana, clerodendron and even porter weed. American beautyberry grows throughout the southeastern United States, often near wetlands, although it is not salt-tolerant. In South Florida, it grows to about eight feet tall and equally as wide.  Because it grows on the edges of the woods, it flourishes in partial shade. It will grow in a wide range of soils, and is drought tolerant once established. To keep it in check, cut it back hard in the late winter. To see it in full-fruited glory, take the walking path north past the Gate House, as if heading to the Vine Pergola, and look to your left, or visit the pineland area of the lowlands.