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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Beautyberry’s native status makes it easy to care for

By Staff | Aug 31, 2016

Beautyberry is a great food source for turtles, rabbits, birds, butterflies and a variety of pollinators. PHOTO BY Anita Force Marshall

Plant Subject: Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

First impression: Mesmerizing reflective purple popsicle color in a petite pea shaped fruit. Collectively, they are breathtaking, being grouped in spiraling clusters that are too numerous to count. Younger fruits are lima green color and just as showy. Rough, light green oval leaves emerge along the tendril like stems. I notice the openness of arching branches and the appearance of multi stemmed gray trunks. Gosh, what a beauty of a berry! Hummm-Never ending fruits in shades of regal, rich lavenders that would bring any berry lover to their knees, fruiting in your own tropical garden.

Upon further investigation: Beautyberry is one of my garden favorites must have, we gardeners in paradise are always looking for unusual colors in berries. Fortunately, we have this wonderful native plant that has a delicate bloom followed by show stopping hued fruits. Ok, we can’t eat these berries, but that leaves bunches for our backyard critters. Our star is a great food source for turtles, rabbits, birds, butterflies and a variety of pollinators. I enjoy watching our garden birds hop from twig to twig.

The small warblers are attracted to the insects that hover around the flowers. The mockingbirds, cardinals, thrashers and catbirds love the fruit and seeds. You will love its loose branched habit; you decide the height by pruning. Left on its own, the mature height is around eight feet tall. I am gaga over its ageratum like blooms, which are the lightest of violet color.

They adorn the leggy stems encircling them in clusters and evenly spaced from top to bottom. They are gorgeous next to the fuzzy light green leaves. After the flowers, chartreuse green fruits mature and form as clusters of striking metallic shades of magenta and violet drupes with dark fleshy pulp. Beautyberry will grow on a wide variety of soils and sand. Once you see the abundant flowers, you will love this plant. Once you are smitten by the long lasting purple mania fruit, it will be on your gotta have list.

I began my love of beautyberry, with my first plant I purchased from the SCCF Native Landscapes and Garden Center. Its native status puts it in the easy care, drought tolerant, and lack of pests/disease category. Super for our tropical climate due to its drought tolerance and filtered sun to shade. Beautyberry from days gone has been under used in our tropical landscape. I encourage you to try one, once you see it flower and fruit, don’t forget to thank me!

Pros:

Oodles of blooms and fruit

Does well in sandy soil

Birds love the seeds

Great for a splash of purple

Pollinator attractor

You will grow weary answering the question ” What is the name of that plant?”

Easy care

Native

Cons:

Can get leggy/prune yearly

May have to thank Anita

Cold sensitive

Conclusion: Looking for some beauty in your garden? Take a look at the berries exploding in swirls of unmistakable deep, dark purple, in your tropical garden in paradise. Leave your baskets at home, these berries are for the birds! Don’t wanna miss this fruiter!

Please welcome in the next edition of the Islander “In the Garden” a new series of gardening articles from our talented RS Walsh Garden Center. I will be reading all their informative plant and garden ideas and hope that you will to. Many thanks to all of you (especially The Islander and the Island Reporter) for the many happy years writing my What’s Bloomin column.