Want Bobwhites?

American Beautyberry (

Callicarpa americana

), is NOT deer tolerant. Let me say that again. Beautyberry is a favorite salad topping for white-tailed deer. On the plus side, it grows back the next year. And Northern Bobwhites love it. So maybe you can let the deer have a few leaves, just so you can have bobwhite quail, right?

There are 3 types of


 growing in the US--


, (gee, wonder where that one's from?) 


and our native


. American Beautyberry is, with a little room, a very pretty shrub. Here in Western North Carolina, it is blooming right now, preparing for the fall display of pink to magenta fruit that is deliciously shocking against the pale yellow-green foliage. (Except in

var. lactea

, which has white berries.) My pollinators are happily preoccupied with the clusters of flowers that surround the stem, doing their part in the food chain. The birds will be next to come, once the berries have ripened. Besides birds, raccoons, opossums and foxes may also indulge in the fruit. The berries will persist after the shrub has dropped its leaves. An annual pruning can help to keep the shrub compact and handsome, as the new-growth stems add a dimension of color that enhances the appearance of the shrub. Take limb loppers to this shrub in late winter. Pruning can be severe--hack away! Leave 6"-12" of stem above the ground. All flowers and fruit come out on new growth.

Beautyberry bark is pale grey on mature stems and reddish-brown on younger stems. Leaves are opposite, and can be up to 9 inches long. In this image (left), you can see the small hairs on the stem--the undersides of leaves are also covered with branched hairs. You can also see how the blooms are clustered at the base of the leaves.

My sources here can't seem to agree on a mature height--could be anywhere from 5 to 12 feet. In the more southern part of its region (which extends from Virginia to Florida and west to Texas and up to Missouri), this shrub definitely prefers some dappled shade. (Under some pine trees is ideal.) In the northern part of its region (zones 6 to 10) it will happily soak up a bit more sun. In both environments it prefers moist soil. In times of drought, beautyberry may completely drop its leaves. Besides moist, well-drained soil, beautyberry prefers a neutral to acid soil. While the flowers are hermaphroditic, it requires cross pollination for good fruit production.

You would have to have enough land to plant a bunch of these to really be effective, but this is a favorite fruit of the Northern Bobwhite. I really don't need a reason to plant this shrub--it is carefree in moist WNC clay--but if I


a reason, bobwhites would suffice! Besides bobwhites, birders can enjoy birds such as robins, catbirds, brown thrashers and mockingbirds that are all drawn to the fruit.

The photo at right shows the mature berries where the blooms had previously clustered at the origin of each leaf. These clusters will form all along the stem at the leaf bases, making beautyberry both distinctive and easy to identify. Plant some and prune it every spring--you'll have a graceful shrub loaded with blooms and berries in the fall. Don't prune?--you'll still have berries. Might not be as graceful, but the birds won't care a bit. Enjoy!


LadyBird Johnson Wildflower Center


Plants For A Future


Florida Native Plant Society


Clemson University


US Forest Service



A Rainbow in Cactus

A Rainbow in Cactus