Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) is an open-habit, native shrub of the Southern United States which is often grown as an ornamental in gardens and yards. American beautyberries produce large clusters of purple berries, which birds and deer eat, thus distributing the seeds.
The raw berries, while palatably sweet, are suitable for human consumption only in small amounts, because they are astringent; they are also used in jellies. The roots are used to make herbal tea. As a folk remedy it has been claimed that "fresh, crushed leaves of American beautyberry, Callicarpa americana . . . helped keep biting insects away from animals such as horses and mules." An isolated plant compound, callicarpenal, has reportedly been proven effective in tests as a mosquito repellent.
The berries ripen in September through October and are a favorite among wild bird species including cardinals, mockingbirds, finches, woodpeckers and more. Beautyberry is commonly planted in landscape designs to attract wildlife because of the food source the berries provide and the cover animals get from the shrub itself.
The native range of C. americana extends from Maryland to Florida, west to Texas and Arkansas, and also Mexico, Bermuda, the Bahamas and Cuba.
Plants with white berries are found in cultivation under the name Callicarpa americana var. lactea; not all authorities recognize this as a distinct variety (in the sense of the botanical rank below subspecies).
- Callicarpa L., GRIN Taxonomy for Plants, accessed February 16, 2010
- Scientists Confirm Folk Remedy Repels Mosquitoes University Of Mississippi (ScienceDaily) July 3, 2006
- "Learning from our elders: Folk Remedy Yields Mosquito-Thwarting Compound". Agricultural Research (Agricultural Research Service). February 6, 2006.
- "Wildlife Gardening: Beautyberry". Prepper Gardens. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
- American Beautyberry information
- "Callicarpa americana var. lactea F.J. Müll". Tropicos.
- "Callicarpa americana var. lactea".
- "Callicarpa americana var. lactea F.J. Muell., Taxonomic Serial No.: 532805". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
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