LET’S HEAR IT FOR BEAUTY!
By: Lucy Duncan
Let’s hear it for beauty! Especially the native shrub Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) this time of year. Also known as French Mulberry (sounds fancy, doesn’t it?) this native does well in both sun and shade and without our needing to fuss over it.
It even grows in sandy soils with little care. In summer, the groups of small white flowers line the stems and provide for pollinators. In fall, the stems are loaded with clusters of rich purple berries that birds love.
(Technically, these clusters are called drupes, not berries!) ‘Berries’ start to ripen as early as September and fall migrants can often be found eating them. We think of birds like vireos and warblers as insectivores, but they are often found in these attractive shrubs in our neighborhood.
They are not the only birds that flock to beautyberries. The local northern mockingbirds stake out and defend their favorite patches of beautyberry – as well as youpon, sand grapes and mulberry – often causing minor avian contests.
Later in the fall, the leaves turn yellow and create a pleasing contrast with the purple berries. One positive note for the birder is that after craning our necks to see warblers up in the trees, the beautyberry brings them down to eye level.