Summer Berries of the South
Native to Florida (and around the southeastern USA from Virginia to Texas), the vivid magenta-colored fruit clusters of American Beautyberry can be seen in areas of Amelia Island. Those taking a hike or bike ride in natural areas may spot it growing wild. Observe it in Fort Clinch State Park and Egans Greenway (but don’t pick berries or disturb plants in these protected parks). Some local property owners may have this shrub growing in yards and gardens.
The fruits of this native perennial plant, scientific name (Callicarpa Americana), ripen in August/September. While the ripened berries are quite beautiful (and edible, see more below), parts of the shrub may be beneficial as a natural remedy for pesky mosquitoes, and maybe even ticks.
Southern Bird Garden
Adding pops of color to the coastal landscape, birds love to eat the berries, clusters of fruit that look like berry shish kebabs. For those who’d like to attract more birds, beautyberry is a garden selection for birdscaping yards in the South. Note that some animals also consume these berries such as raccoons, white-tailed deer and armadillos.
However, did you know some gardeners harvest the ripened fruit to make beautyberry jelly? Those interested in growing this native plant at home can do further research and learn more by visiting the Univeristy of Florida Extension IFAS bookstore page. They list Florida’s Edible Wild Plants, a book by Peggy Lantz (with a recipe section, including one for beautyberry cake).
Repel Mosquitoes & Ticks?
Reportedly, using the leaves of this shrub is known as a “traditional folk remedy,” against some biting insects. According to the USDA, “A granddad’s wisdom, already helpful in the fight against mosquitoes, may also prove useful in battling disease-spreading ticks… Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Oxford, Miss., isolated compounds from a plant called American beautyberry that enable its crushed leaves to repel mosquitoes.” Read more about the USDA’s research of American beautyberry here.
Native American Uses
Interestingly, “the roots, leaves and branches of the American beautyberry were used by the Alabama, Choctaw, Creek, Koasati, Seminole and other Native American tribes for various medicinal purposes,” according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Plant Guide. Also learn more about beautyberry here.