Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Wildflower Wednesday: Callicarpa americana

Callicarpa americana is a wildly beautiful flowering shrub.

Even with the gorgeous berries/drupes stripped from the plant by hungry birds, the leaves are a lovely chartreuse and still glow in the garden. The arching stems with the yellowing leaves looks especially lovely as fall continues.

leaves turn light yellow in the fall

I don't mind that from November to March it's a leafless deciduous shrub. If you plant it in your garden know that it is one of the latest native shrubs to leaf out in the spring. This is because the new leaves are sensitive to frost and have evolved to wait until the danger of frost has passed before they start growing  (source). Isn't nature marvelous!

diversity in the garden
In case you're wondering,  this is not the first time a native shrub or tree has been a Wildflower Wednesday star. But, it is the first time I've shared one when the garden is still full of blooming wildflowers. It's important that we who garden for wildlife make sure we have energy foods beyond pollen and nectar. Critters who visit and or live in our gardens need them, but they also need seeds, nuts and berries that are fat and protein rich. Trees and shrubs are essential plants in a biodiverse garden. They are host plants for moths and butterflies, provide nesting sites for birds and small mammals and have nuts, berries and seeds that a variety of critters rely upon. Here's something to consider, Doug Tallamy suggests we plant trees and shrubs before we plant flowers and grasses!



Besides, this beautiful berried shrub is gorgeous during September!

small clusters of lavender-pink flowers open in late spring to early summer

No one would deny that the berries of Callicarpa americana are stunning, but, some folks don't appreciate the flowers and refer to them as insignificant. Yes, they're small, but, they are not insignifigant. Once it blooms Callicarpa americana turns on its charm. The sweet clusters of lavender-pink flowers attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

It's a host plant for the Spring azure butterfly (seen above) and the

 Snowberry clearwing month (an important insect protein for baby birds). 


The flowers open over several weeks and once the flowers are pollinated berries/drupes begin to appear.

 In late July the berries begin to darken. 

The color appears to many as magenta and to others as rosy pink, violet-purple or even neon violet. Whatever you call it, the color is stunning. The fruits remain attractive for a long time, but rarely last beyond the first frost. In my garden, robins, thrushes, bluebirds and other songbirds have been stripping the berries away for the last several weeks.

 This southeastern US native can grow 6 feet or more, especially if it's situated in a sunny, moist, well draining spot. Curious to see where it might thrive here at Clay and Limestone, it's planted in several different environments in the garden, most under canopy trees that have roots that suck up moisture that the plant needs. They have never gotten as big or as floriferous as the one I planted in the sunny Susans' bed where it gets regular watering during the summer, but each of them have flowered and berried providing food for pollinators and birds anyway.

Beautyberry, Goldenrod, Gaura, African Blue basil late September

 American Beautyberry has a lot going for it.

  • it's a robust and fast-growing native shrub
  • has an amazing display of bright magenta berries in the fall.      
  • sweet pink flowers attract pollinators
  • berries attract birds     
  • drought tolerant (once established)   
  • easy to grow
  • grows in a variety of soils
  • host plant for a moth and butterfly
  • a chemical extract may repel ticks, fleas and mosquitoes (source)
  • fruit makes a delicious jelly, syrup, or wine
  • flowers on new growth so feel free to prune

The Particulars:

Botanical name: Callicarpa americana

Common name: American Beautyberry or purple beauty-berry. In Greek the genus name Callicarpa means callos, “beauty” and carpos “fruit”

Family: Lamiaceae formerly of the Vervain (Verbenaceae) family

Type: Deciduous shrub with arching branches and a loose, open habit

Native Range: Southeastern United States: South-eastern N. America - Florida to Texas and north to Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Zone: 6 to 10 

Height: 3.00 to 6.00 feet (or more)

Spread: 3.00 to 6.00 feet 

Drupes/ flowers of blue, violet, pink, or white are arranged in clusters on the stems between the leaves. 

Bloom Time: June to August 

Flower: Flowers small, pink, in dense clusters at the bases of the leaves, clusters usually not exceeding the leaf petioles.

Fruit: In August or September, clusters of small purple to magenta or drupes encircle the woody stems. Each small berry in the cluster contains two to four seeds about 1/16 in. long.

Plant description: The elliptical to ovate shaped leaves have an opposite arrangement with saw toothed margins. The underside of the leaves may be covered with wooly like hairs. The stems are slender, gray to reddish brown, and terete or four sided. It has arching branches and a loose, open habit.

Sun: Full sun to part shade 

Water: Medium 

Maintenance: Medium 

Landscape Uses: Border, Cascades, Erosion control, Foundation, Massing

Seeds might be ready to harvest

Wildlife value:The fruit is high in moisture content and is an important food source for more than forty species of songbirds including the American Robin, Brown Thrasher, Purple Finch, and Eastern Towhee. The drupes or clusters are eaten by armadillo, foxes, opossum, raccoon and squirrels. White tailed deer consume the fruit in the fall after leaf drop. They also browse the leaves in
summer when highly preferred foods are not available. Protein content of the leaves ranges from 18 percent in spring to 8 percent in fall. (source)

Comments: Winter Interest. Tolerates Clay Soil


So for much appreciated garden bling, plant Beautyberry...and I don't mean the Asian non native shrub! Trust me, the pollinators will visit and the birds will be all over it.


Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. I am so glad you stopped by. WW is about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. Please leave your url when you comment. I love your comments, so thank you for leaving them.

Don't forget our Wildflower Wednesday monthly challenge!  The first part of this challenge is to do something every month during 2022 that supports native wildflowers, pollinators, and the critters that visit and rely on our gardens. The second part of the challenge is to post about it somewhere: Your blog, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or even your neighborhood listserve. 

Why post it?  Because positive publicity is needed to educate our friends, neighbors and communities about how important even the smallest changes we make as gardeners can be for pollinators, birds, insects and mammals that live all around us. 

An incomplete list of things you might consider doing or changing in your garden

Shrink your lawn and make your planting beds larger.

Plant your favorite native perennials and shrubs. Leave them standing after they've gone to seed to continue to provide for wildlife. What you plant in your yard makes a difference to wildlife. I garden for wildlife so every tree, shrub and plant is chosen with wildlife in mind.

Plant more natives and then consider planting even more. "A typical suburban landscape contains only 20-30% native plant species. Try reversing that trend in your own landscape by using 70-80% native species." (source

Commit to never, ever, ever, ever using pesticides in the garden.

Stay away from native plant hybrids and cultivars that are double flowered. They are sterile and have no pollen or nectar for insects and no seeds for the birds. If possible plant “true open-pollinated native wildflowers”

If you want to garden for wildlife and pollinators, don't let lack of space stop you! Plant your favorite wildflowers in large containers. You just might have the prairie or woodland garden you've always wanted...in a pot!
Create a water feature. Provide water year round that is accessible to birds, bees and other critters.

Show some soil! Our native ground nesting bees nest in bare soil, so don't mulch every square inch of your garden. 

Invite bugs into your garden. Plant annuals that attract beneficial bugs.

Learn to tolerate damaged plants. Imperfection is the new perfect.

Don't be in a rush to clean up the fall garden. Leave plant stalks and seed heads standing all winter. Leave those fallen leaves or as many as you can tolerate! Insects over winter in the fallen and decaying leaves.

Leave a layer of leaves as a soft landing material under trees for moths and butterflies to over winter. Many caterpillars drop to the ground from the trees in the fall.

Make a brush pile. Stack fallen brush, cut tree limbs, broken pots for ground beetles. Ground beetles are excellent at eating "bad bugs'. They're also good bird, toad and small critter food. 

Rethink what you consider a pest. Lots of good bugs eat aphids. Spiders are important predators and bird food!

Add nesting boxes for birds.

Plant shrubs and small trees that provide berries and nuts.

Keep a nature journal: Observe visitors to the water feature, make note of when they visit. Notice which flowers attract the most pollinators and which ones are just pretty faces. 

Volunteer to remove invasives in a local part or natural area.

Join your state native plant society.

Join WildOnes even if there's no local group.

Take an online course on tree, fungi and wildflower id.

Take a walk in your neighborhood and observe nature. To quote Joanna Brichetto in Sidewalk Nature "Look Around. Nature is here, is us, our driveways, our baseboards, parks, and parking lots."

Buy the best wildflower, butterfly and bird id books for your state.

Read nature books to your children and grandchildren. 

Read! There are hundreds of books on gardening for wildlife, the environment, and rewilding our world. There are delightful blogs with wonderful and informative articles.

Turn off your porch lights, eave lights and uplights to help mammals,  birds, critters that live in the dark survive.

If you live in Nashville join the Facebook ReWild Nashville Group and the Middle Tennessee WildOnes

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. I’m just here to swoon over the color of the beauty berries!

  2. Today I was photographing flowers in my garden, and was distracted by all the little lives I found once I could zoom in on my laptop. Including a ridiculously tiny bee on a pelargonium!

    1. I love finding those surprises and I adore the littlebees.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson