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September Flora Spotlight:
American Beautyberry

 
American Beautyberry
Callicarpa americana


American beautyberry is an outstanding native deciduous shrub that grows 6-8 ft tall with a loose, open form and outward pointing branches. In springtime, tiny lilac flowers appear. These are held in clusters called cymes that arise from the leaf axils (where the leaf joins the stem). By autumn the flowers give rise to 1/4 inch berries in striking metallic shades of magenta and violet. These berries are packed tightly together in clusters that encircle the stem. 

The fruits of American beautyberry are an important food source for many species of birds including mockingbirds, robins, towhees, and brown thrashers. These long-lasting fruits provide food for birds and small animals well into the winter months when other food-sources are unavailable. 

A member of the Verbenaceae (Verbena) family, this shrub grows in dry open woods, moist woods and along stream banks. Used for mass plantings or individually in a woodland setting the spring flowers and beautiful fall fruit make this an attractive landscape plant. 

The roots, leaves and branches of the American beautyberry were used by Native American tribes for various medicinal purposes. The roots, leaves and branches were made into a decoction that was used in sweat baths to treat both malarial fevers and rheumatism. A similar decoction of the roots was used to treat dizziness and stomach aches. The roots and berries were boiled and drunk to treat colic.

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