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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Anticipating the Berries

My first introduction to the unique shrub, American Beautyberry; Callicarpa americana happened last year when visiting one of our state parks . From that day forward I had my eyes peeled wishing to add this plant to my garden.

I still haven't run across it for sale in my city. But while visiting Sanibel-Captiva Islands in January we found plenty of them in a newly (to us) discovered garden center that specializes in native plants.
Here are (above) the two plants we transported from that vacation which found their home in the back garden. I am now affectionately referring to this as the woodlands section. It is the area at the farthest back 20 feet of our property. We could fairly say this area has evolved a great deal over the last year or so having added several new kinds of plants. Formerly only palmettos and large philodendrons were growing in the large space keeping company with the compost pile.

Having only seen American Beautyberry in the fall when its woody stems are laden with clusters of bright magenta berries, I was really curious to see what the shrub would look like in all of its stages of growth.

For the spring months it was spending its days getting bushier and taller sporting some large green foliage.
Then one day in late May excitement again as I noticed clusters of miniature buds beginning to appear.

Having read all the characteristics of this shrub at the time of planting, I knew to expect the arrival of some small flowers before the berries arrived. Even so I wasn't sure just how small or just what they would look like.
The tiny huddles of pale lilac blooms gracing the entire stem were simply delightful in the month of May.

Just recently there has been another stage in the process as you can see in photo to the right.
The lilac blooms have now given way to tightly packed green berries encircling the leaf axils along the length of each branch.

It's proven to be an attractive landscape addition with very little maintenance required. It is happy in the filtered sun of its shady location which lends to the feel of a natural garden and planted right next to some palmettos.

I am looking forward to the time when green pods turn to deep magenta in maturity. The berries will be food for wildlife with many varieties of birds feeding from it during the winter months.
Information below and photo (above) of mature berries by
American Beautyberry:
  • Very adaptable, even to low fertility soils.
  • Light: Broken shade is optimal.
  • Moisture: Very drought tolerant. Requires well drained soil.
  • Hardiness: USDA Zones 6-10.
  • Propagation: Seeds and semi-hardwood cuttings. This shrub often volunteers within its range, sometimes with such vigor as to be regarded as a weed species.


  1. Such an appropriately named plant! Looks like it's lovely at all times though, not just when covered in those wonderful berries. Have a great weekend Meems :)

  2. I have beautyberries growing wild all around my garden. I've never had to buy one. The large ones are spectacular when the berries turn from green to magenta in the fall. They almost look fake.

    Always Growing

  3. I discovered American Beauty Berry while living in NC.
    It's very lovely. It's one of my favorite plants in the garden, and no one ever knows what it is. The berries are treasures I look forward to each year! Good for you for finding!

  4. Like Jan, we have beautyberry growing wild all around our property, as well as our neighbors, here in Pollywog Creek. Some of the bushes are now about 5 feet tall. The flowers are so lovely, aren't they, but nothing compared to the stunning berries.

  5. meems,

    I just noticed my Callicarpa was is a lovely shrub. This fall will be a treat. Native trees have so much to offer. It's important to travel in a car that accommodates plants!


  6. Looks like another good addition to your garden. Just many new additions have you made this year?

  7. Look for the local mocKINGbird king to guard those berries. Ours is stil flowering. You got some right nice shots of those TINY blossoms! 8-]

  8. What more could you ask of a plant absolute winner, I think.

  9. amy: I agree wholeheartedly... the name is apropos and it is a shrub for all seasons in a subtle sort of way. My weekend is going to be fairly quiet after a very busy week so I am looking forward to it... thanks for the well wishes.

    jan: Hi and welcome. The birds have done their "duty" in your garden I suppose if you've never planted but have them growing wildly. I have room for more where I placed mine so I hope for the same process to take place here.

    kathryn: Thanks for visiting. You'd think I would have run across the beautyberry before now since I'm a native Floridian. Maybe I did and just wasn't paying attention which I hope wasn't the case. But you never know... in my younger days it was always the bright and colorful showy kind of plant that got my attention.

    patricia: I have read where some consider them a nuisance or invasive due to their ability to rapidly spread in some places. You seem to have plenty of room so they have to be a lovely sight at Pollywog Creek.

    gail: Does your beautyberry freeze in the winter? It is a lovely and perfect planting for your beautiful garden. I'm sure you already love the simple attributes of it each season. And yes, lately I've been making room in the transport every time I leave town... very important stuff!

    mjm: thanks it was one I was very excited about adding. hmmmm... I guess you've been noticing... quite a few new discoveries this year. I haven't counted but let's just say there have been several... or maybe many would serve better here... it's been a busy year in the garden. :-)

    Sophie: I ALWAYS see mockingbirds when I'm up your way and I rarely see them in my area. Maybe this berry bush will draw them my way? That would be a good thing.

    Cheryl: It is the kind of plant you don't set up as the centerpiece but one that brings much delight in the wilder section of the garden. I am happy with how it has adapted here so we will make good company.

  10. Beauty Berry is a great shrub. Ours is blooming up a storm right now. It is fun to see the bees on it now and then the berries will be appreciated by all the birds soon. It is funny that the berries don't last long once they turn ripe.

  11. I'm going to be adding a beautyberry to my shade garden next fall. I'd thought it wasn't so pretty outside of the fall, but your pictures prove otherwise!

  12. Lisa, what happens to your beautyberry in the winter up there in Indiana? I'm pretty sure the berries last for quite a while down here in the south... but I've read where the birds like the berries a lot more once they turn to raisins on the stem.

    vertie: sometimes it helps to "see" what all the phases of a plant produce... I'm glad you will have one in the fall even if just for the sake of feeding the wildlife.

  13. Meems,

    Beauty Berry bushes are great aren't they? I love them and have them peppered all over the yard.They were already here when I bought my little house.

    I like that they are native to the area and you don't have to baby them at all.

    You will love how spectacular they look in the fall! The colors of the berries are so vivid. I might try using some cut branches in floral arrangements.

    I hope you enjoy your Beauty Berry bushes!


  14. Okay now,,that last pic I do recognize. It is in a lot of gardens here on the MS Gulf Coast.
    Do you know if the berries are poisonous? I have three cats, so I worry about that. It is sure a pretty and interesting plant.

  15. I've seen beautyberry in lots of magazines...I've always liked it! Wish I had an empty spot...

  16. Hi Meems, have you thought about mixing the beauty berry with your new free GA plants? They might be a good match up. In Houston the beauty berry was a roadside native and looked wonderful along with the native wild ageratum, eupatorium something, magenta berries and true purple flowers at the same time, a dusky dream combo. Thanks for your good background stories on how you came to have these plants, as much fun to read about as the plants themselves.

  17. Your photos of the beautyberry are really good, Meems - when they're in dappled shade that can be tricky.

    I like my plant and am amazed at how large it is after a few years in the ground. The purple of the berries is a great color! Maybe your berries will last longer in Florida - but our mockingbirds don't leave many behind to be decorative once they ripen.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  18. Seems I'm a bit late to catch on to these fascinating berried shrubs,susiesqs... I hope mine re-seed like they should then I'll have them peppered in my woodland area! They are a great bush for all seasons.

    Eve, Hi and welcome to your first visit to Hoe & Shovel. To answer your question I went back to the Floridata site and nothing was mentioned re: poisonous to animals. I think you might like this plant in your garden too.

    GMTA! Frances, I planted the Euphorbia a little to the left and behind the beautyberry... all in lose proximity. There are palmettos, blue porterweed, oakleaf hydrangea, jatropha, draceana... all in the same woodland area growing to fill in around each other. I'm glad you don't mind my rambling about how the plants came to make their home here.

    It's best to wait for cloud cover, Annie, when the sunlight is dotting the landscape. Makes for much less frustration where photos are concerned.

    I've heard the mockingbirds claim their territory to be king over the beautyberry. It's okay with me, the idea of the birds feasting off the berries was a huge draw for me in choosing this plant.It will be interesting to see how long the berries last here.

  19. In reference to American Beautyberries being poisonous, I ate a handfull yesterday, and am apparently still living. I did find a recipe for Beautyberry pie, and we harvested a gallon of berries. The pie is baking right now. After I plop a big pile of whip cream on it, I'll let you know if I die. :)

  20. i just wanted to say beauty berries ARE NOT POISONOUS the poison control center and ask if you dont believe me ..i mix them with other berries to make pies ..we put them in pancakes..also beautyberry leaves are a very good bug repelent..beautyberry is in the mint family..a leaf in with your fruit or on a picnic table keeps the flies away..crush up some leaves and rub them on your skin to repel misquitos.. a beautifull usefull and NOT POSIONOUS plant... thanks :)


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