I’m officially a HUGE fan of beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma).
This is the time of year when plants are putting on the grand finale. Blaze orange, deep scarlet, brilliant yellow, and a multitude of other colors make this a beautiful time of year. Then, wham! The leaves fall off and it’s brown, gray, and bleah until spring. Or is it?
One plant that I’ve come to appreciate is Beautyberry, or more accurately Callicarpa americana. Callicarpa is native to the United States and is found from Virginia through Arkansas, sometimes as far south as Florida and Texas. It’s a tough little shrub that will tolerate wet feet, and it averages around 3-5 feet high and wide. To me, it has the same look as forsythia or itea when they’re not in bloom – kind of shapeless, messy, and a good general massing plant. What sets callicarpa apart is the berries. Starting in early fall, the branches get covered in bunches of purple berries that persist even after the leaves drop. At a time of year without a whole lot of color, you can get a great splash of vibrant purple – at least until the birds find the berries. Callicarpa is a great source of food for wildlife, so whether you’re trying to create and certify a backyard habitat or you just like critters, this is a good choice. Just pick the location carefully. The berries are purple, so if you drive a white car you may not want to plant a row next to the driveway.
If you have a lot of deer, I’m not sure what to tell you. I’ve planted them in heavy deer areas with no trouble, and callicarpa appears on many deer-safe lists. Floridata, however, says they’re a favorite of White-tail Deer. If you’re concerned, try a few and see how they fare.
So to recap – massing plant! Pretty berries! Happy critters! Give callicarpa a try in your landscape. I think you’ll like it.