I have seen this plant all my life, but until a few years ago, I never knew what it was. All I knew was that birds liked them. As it turns out, the American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana) is pretty interesting. The leaves can be crushed and used as a mosquito repellent, and the berries can be made into jelly that reportedly has a mild pomegranate flavor. I have never tasted it, but I will definitely be harvesting some soon for that purpose. It is growing everywhere around here! Beautyberry has also proven to be an attractive plant for wildlife within its native range. Birds - including robins, catbirds, cardinals, mockingbird, brown thrashers, finches and towhees - are favorite consumers of both the fresh berries and the shriveled raisins. The fruit is loved by white-tailed dear as well, and the fruit will usually last into the early winter.
It is native from Maryland to Florida and west through Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas. Beautyberry commonly occurs on a wide variety of sites - moist to dry, open to shady. It can also be grown in a garden or flower bed. It is very easy to identify. I have read that the berries do not have any flavor when eaten raw, and have an unpleasant, mealy texture, but taste good when made into jelly. A very informative video can be found here.
It has beautiful lavender flowers in the spring. You can root softwood cuttings in sand. Keep them moist and they should root in one to two weeks. Beautyberry can tolerate extremes of heat and cold, prefer partial shade, but are more fruitful in the sun if given the proper moisture.
The shrub often volunteers within its range, sometimes so much that it is considered to be a pest. Seeds are bird-dispersed. To use as an insect repellent, just crush some leaves and rub them all over. In this Mother Earth News article, it says that extracts made from Beautyberry can match DEET for repelling mosquitoes.
I will be sure and keep you updated when I make the jelly. Have you ever made or tasted Beautyberry jelly?
Moon Song #5 of 99
Peace, love, and happiness,