Beautyberry

Callicarpa spp.
Family: Lamiaceae

Natural History
Beautyberry with fruits
Photo credit: Larry Korhnak, University of Florida

Beautyberry grows in many environmental conditions from moist and shady to open and dry. Across this range of habitats, it most frequently occurs under open pine stands. Beautyberry is found in most of the southeast, between Florida and Texas in the south, to Maryland, Missouri, and Oklahoma in the north.

Beautyberry occurs in both old forests and in new pine plantations. It tolerates fire, and often spreads in periodically burned pine stands. The fruit and seeds are eaten and dispersed by more than forty species of songbirds, deer, raccoons, opossums, armadillos, and numerous small rodents. The leaves are also a common food source for white-tailed deer.

Small flowers blossom in midsummer in dense clusters along the new stems. The petals are bright pink to lavender. Later, clusters of small, but bright, violet berries dot the forest from August to January. Although beautyberry fruits most heavily with full sun, it will grow fine in partial shade also. A very distinctive feature of beautyberry is the strong, unpleasant aroma of crushed leaves.

The two most common species of beautyberry are our native American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) and purple beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma). Purple beautyberry is a more compact, neater shrub but otherwise the two are very similar. This genus was formerly classified in Verbenaceae and some older references will still give that family name.


 

Identifying Characteristics

Habitat: Beautyberry grows in a wide variety of conditions including moist woodland areas. It can also be found along forest margins and fencerows.
Size/Form: Beautyberry is a rounded, bushy, multi-stem shrub that measures 6' to 8' tall. It has many spreading, oppositely arranged branches. New stems are light green and hairy but they gradually turn brown with age.
Leaves: The leaves are simple, opposite, and deciduous. They are usually 3" to 7" long and 1" to 3½" wide and ovate in outline. Both leaf surfaces are covered with short hairs and the leaf margins are serrate.
Flowers: Clusters of small, pink flowers appear in the spring in the leaf axils where the petioles meet the stem.
Fruit: The fruit is a fleshy, spherical drupe about 1/8" wide and is purple to violet, or rarely white. The small fruit occurs in dense clusters that surround the stem.

 

Images

Click on any thumbnail to see a photo. Use left and right arrows to navigate. Use "esc" to exit the lightbox.

 

Learn More