Callicarpa americana L. is a deciduous shrub in the Verbena family. Its opposite leaf arrangement is somewhat unusual, but it’s the fruit color that really distinguishes this plant. Beauty-berry is a plant with its own idea about beautiful fall color. As maples begin to turn shades of gold and bronze, and dogwood and blackgum leaves a deep crimson, beauty-berries ripen to a bright … fuscha? Yes, fuscia it is – a vivid pinkish purple color named for the flower of that name.
Check Wikipedia for the color fuscia, and you’ll be led on a delightful romp that includes “fashion fuscia” (also known as Hollywood cerise), fandango, and all of the colors in the Crayola crayon box.
I love it when a plant’s scientific name makes sense to me, and this is one of those plants. Callicarpa is just what its scientific name implies: “calli” is Greek for beautiful (think: calligraphy) “carpel” means fruit (not carpal as in carpal tunnel syndrome). Beautiful fruit!
This plant is sometimes called French mulberry, although humans don’t eat it. Beauty-berry is not common in our forests, but I sometimes find it in moist somewhat sunny openings and roadsides in the coves. It’s a great plant for wildlife. Butterflies are attracted to the flowers; birds to the fruits; and deer to the leaves as well as fruit. The USDA has a good factsheet on this lovely plant. There I learned that beauty-berry’s crushed leaves repel mosquitoes — most helpful information!