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Plants from the Ground Up

Stunning Beautyberries An Elegant and Useful Shrub

Calicarpa americana

Striking and unusual, Beautyberry bushes are adorned all fall and into winter with vivid berry clusters. The botanical name of this wonderful plant is Callicarpa. There are many species from around the world, ranging from the American South to China and Japan. Although most of us are only familiar with the purple-fruited varieties, there are also white and shell pink cultivars.

Callicarpa americana Welsh's Pink

Callicarpa americana Welsh’s Pink

Long used as a folk medicine for the prevention of mosquito bites, modern research shows this practice had much wisdom to it! Researchers for the USDA have found chemical components in the leaves that may well turn out to be as effective in deterring ticks and fire ants as DEET. One of the most important pest-repellent chemicals they have isolated is callicarpenal. Callicarpa has also been used in the treatment of colic, malaria, dysentery rheumatism, fever and cancer.

The berries are a choice food source for the birds in fall. Mostly overlooked by humans, Beautyberry has been used in winemaking and makes a fine jelly. If you are up for trying the jelly, here is a recipe:

  1. Take 1 ½  quarts of berries (make sure they are free of leaves and branches), cover with 2 quarts of water and boil for 20 minutes. Strain the infusion.
  2. Take three cups of the infusion and mix with one envelope of pectin and 4 cups of sugar. Boil and skim off any foam.
  3. Pour into jelly jars with two part caps and place in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

This makes a perfect holiday gift!

If you are looking for the perfect shrub to fill out your garden, look no further than Beautybush! With pink flowers in spring, yellow fall color, vibrant fall berries and many uses, Callicarpa truly deserves a spot in every yard! USDA hardiness zones 6-9

For more photos and information, see Callicarpa americana at the Forestfarm Store.

 

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