Beauty-berry

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!

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2 comments

  1. Nathan

    I saw one of these the other day while on a trip with Dwayne Estes. They all told me what it was, and I meant to go back later and look up more information, but you have now saved me the trouble! Thanks for the great article Mary!

  2. Pingback: Beechdrops « Sewanee Herbarium

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