October 2008
The Herb Farm

Beautyberry isn’t just for the birds

 

I know I didn’t plant it! I would have remembered doing it, I’m sure! I’m talking about all of the beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) in the woods behind the barn.

The other day, while taking a relaxing walk looking for mushrooms to photograph, I noticed a plant I have apparently overlooked for years. Actually, there were hundreds of them! It’s hard to believe I have not noticed the beautyberry for as long as I have lived here.

The plant is in the Family Verbenaceae or verbena (vervain) family. Lantana is a similar plant in the same family. Lantana blooms all summer then produces berries with seeds inside. The beautyberry similarly does this but the berries are very showy compared to the lantana. Beautyberries are bright pinkish-purple and are highly visible even in the early evening. The berries almost seem to glow.

The beautyberry shrubs grow wild in several counties throughout Alabama, from Morgan to Mobile. Growing as high as six feet in some situations, these shrubs provide a source of winter food for many wild birds and mammals when other sources aren’t available. Robins, mockingbirds, quails, deer, raccoons and -— of course our favorite -— armadillos enjoy these fruits.

Beautyberry is known to be a natural insect repellant and effective for ticks, fleas, chiggers and some mosquitoes. Be careful when using natural, wild harvested plants on the skin.

Other uses for this plant include treatment for dysentery, stomachaches, colic and dizziness. Some Native American tribes have used most of the plant’s parts in sweat-lodges to treat rheumatism and fevers by first boiling the stems and leaves then pouring the soup into a large pan and placing it near the patient in the lodge.

This is a very useful native herb/shrub to grow in your landscape and they are easy to maintain.

Thanks for reading!

If you have any questions about other uses for beautyberry, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I’ll tell you all I know. As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using this or any other herbal remedy.