The American Beautyberry

The American Beautyberry
The American beautyberry is a native shrub that is found over much of the lower half of the country. Its range extends to Delaware down to Florida and throughout the South to Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. The species also occurs in the West Indies. The plant does very well in warm areas and thrives in Hawaii and Florida.

When it comes to landscapes, this is the preferred species since some of the introduced ones have tended to naturalize.

Sometimes called French mulberry, it is found in a range of habitats from moist woodlands and clearings to roadsides, burned areas, and the edges of woods. The species is suitable for windy sites.

Larger than the Chinese beautyberry and slightly less hardy, this typically reaches four to eight feet in height and is six feet across. In some cases, it has grown ten feet tall. However, an annual pruning will limit its height.

With a moderate growth rate, this native shrub has branches that arise from near the roots. This small to medium sized plant is a mounding to erect, open, coarse looking shrub. The arching branches tend to be loose and sprawling. In the Philippines, the branches serve as brooms.

In Hawaii and Florida, this shrub is evergreen, while elsewhere it is deciduous. The large, oval, coarse looking leaves are tapered and toothed. Medium green above, they’re rusty greenish-gray on the underside. Very downy, especially underneath, the foliage ranges from 3½ to eight inches in length. The leaves emerge perpendicular to the stems.

American beautyberry is particularly free flowering. Depending on the climate, this begins blooming in spring or early summer. In warmer areas of the South, blossoms are present from spring throughout the fall. With four petals, the blossoms are rather small, but they form axillary cymes that are 1½ inch wide. With blue corollas, the flowers vary from lavender-pink or blue to violet or pink.

American beautyberry begins flowering at an early age. Blossoms on the upper part of the plant open later than the others. This allows the plant to bear flowers and fruits at the same time.

The fruits of this species are particularly long lasting compared to the others for they ripen over a long period. These last well into the winter months when they’re often consumed by songbirds. Ripening in masses, the fruits are borne in dense, tight, grape-like clusters that can be two inches across. The plant is most showy in late summer and fall when the berries ripen and the leaves turn yellow or purple.

The fruits are up to ¼ inch across. In warm climates, the American beautyberry produces flowers and fruits for much of the year. The fruits come in a range of colors, including magenta, violet, bright purple, amethyst, pink, lavender, and magenta-mauve. A white flowered variety is available.

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This content was written by Connie Krochmal. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Connie Krochmal for details.