The Garden Guy — Coming into Rare and Colorful Beauty

The beautyberry is in the verbena family and produces exotic looking blooms that attract bees and other pollinators before giving way to dazzling berries. (Photo by Norman Winter)

By Norman Winter

All over the south, America’s most beautiful berry is stunning those who come across it in the wild. Those who have incorporated it into their landscape; however, are in a state of celebration. This berry is non-other than the American beautyberry, Callicarpa Americana.

In North Texas you’ll find it is native in Dallas, Tarrant, Denton, and Grayson Counties but is really not finicky on soil. Though it is native in 14 states, from Missouri, Tennessee to Virginia, Maryland and all states south from Texas to Florida, it has the common name French Mulberry. American beautyberry is an arching deciduous shrub that can reach five to eight feet in height.

Many gardeners are surprised to find it is in the verbena family. Like its other shrubby relatives, it is a pollinator magnet when in bloom. You really have to pay attention, though, to notice the intricately designed blooms as they tend to be hidden by leaves.

Amazingly, the blooms are quickly followed by hundreds of glistening berries.

The berries that catch our eye most often are those with the richest purple, a color fit for royalty. You’ll typically find them more prevalent in moist areas with richer soils of the forest floor but will work in the landscape in typical garden soils.

According to the USDA, the berries are eaten by over 40 species of birds. Mockingbirds, Brown Thrashers, American Robins and Eastern Towhees are a few of the notable birds you may find devouring the fruit and of even greater interest to North Texas farmers and ranchers is that it is relished by Bob White Quail.

To read more pick up a copy of the September 2018 NTFR issue. To subscribe call 940-872-5922.

Beauty berries make wonderful companions with shrubs like the variegated Kaleidoscope abelia. (Photo by Norman Winter)