Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Beautyberry, Native Friend or Fearsome Foe?

Callicarpa americana, our native Beautyberry has come into fashion. I've always left it to wild areas where it plants itself.

Recently I let a bird-planted plant or two remain in my garden, growing under the protection of trees. I'm still not sure about it. Birds already relieved those in my garden of most of the berries. I dug out one that tended to take over companions.

Beautyberry Grove under Live Oaks in the Wild Gardens grows bigger every 
year. There used to be a little grove of Sloe plums where deer bedded just to 
the left; they disappeared one year and Beautyberries began to spread 
toward the south. 

We've plenty of them. I thought about trying to grow them together with Gulf Muhly grass but rethought that plan when I realized the berries disappeared down bird crops before the Muhly blooms here, unlike the gorgeous photo of that combination that I saw somewhere. I also feared Callicarpa would act as Duranta did, shading out clumps of Gulf Muhly before I realized what happened and my Muhly grass was dead.

Tina Huckabee of My Gardener Says has chronicled Beautyberry in a wonderful post that gives its positive points.


  1. I grew beautyberry in a previous garden, when we lived in Massachusetts, but haven't grown it here. Birds never took the berries from ours. Have you seen that there is one with darker leaves and dark purple "Black" berries? Pam st Digging did a post about it.

  2. I saw that she had a post about it, I didn't read it. Yet.

  3. Your photos are lovely! I certainly understand ambivalence. Many's the time that someone has gone on (and on) about some plant and I'm thinking: "ugh--not one of my favorites!" Beautyberry can get quite large and does re-seed. (In certain situations, though not in my gardens. Yet.) I was the gardener for a native plants section in one of our public gardens here in Austin and beautyberry showed up all over the place. There was a sprinkler system which was used more than I liked and I guess every beautyberry seed germinated. I moved them, gave them to other parts of the garden and to other habitat groups. But there were always more!

  4. I've always been impressed by the color of the berries but, since I never see these plants for sale locally, I'd assumed they didn't grow here but, after checking, it appears they will. Do they need a lot of water?

  5. Beautyberries are drought tolerant, else the Grove couldn't have survived on a hillside under Live Oaks all these years. Tina Huckabee said she watered her new planting when it drooped.

    Dry shade seems to be where they thrive here, or maybe that is just where they escaped the mower.


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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