The pale pink blooms of American Beautyberry, Callicarpa Americana, appear in early summer, clustered along the arching branches of this deciduous native shrub. The flowers are highly attractive to pollinators and are followed by showy clusters of bright purple fruit. The purple fruit are edible and favored by birds, like catbirds and mockingbirds, for fall and winter forage.
Beautyberry is tough and easy to grow. It’s not picky about soil conditions and is often found growing naturally in the woods and more wild yards (planted by birds that have feasted on its fruit). It grows in sun and shade, but flowers and fruits best when it gets full, direct sun for at least part of the day. The berries are edible, but mostly flavorless and not sweet. Some industrious folks make a jelly with them – lots of sugar added! They are however, very ornamental and may be used to add a pop of color to cakes, salads, etc. The crushed leaves have been used traditionally stuffed into horse harnesses or rubbed on skin to repel mosquitos. Recently scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's research division isolated three beautyberry compounds effective in repelling biting insects: callicarpenal, intermedeol and spathulenol. In particular, the callicarpenal proved to be as effective as DEET in fighting mosquitoes. Other tests found beautyberry compounds also repelled ticks and fire ants.