Wednesday, September 5, 2012


American Beautyberry
Recently I confirmed a suspicion of mine, Japanese Beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica) is an invasive exotic. A landscaper had mistakenly installed a few of these shrubs for a client one winter, to replace some dead shrubs in a grouping of American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana); now there are seedlings of Japanese Beautyberry growing in nearby planting beds.

Observing these two species side by side it is easy for me to choose a favorite. The American Beautyberry has medium-green, medium-textured foliage with rich-colored violet-magenta fruit clusters that surround stem nodes of gracefully arching branches. This shrub is perfect for massing between turf and wooded areas and in the naturalized border. The fruit is not a favorite among wildlife, but will be gobbled up before winter. I have never seen this species re-seed itself.

Japanese Beautyberry
The Japanese Beautyberry by contrast has yellowish-green foliage of a slightly finer texture and more coolly-colored purple fruit on arched branches that have a more erratic structure. The flowering and fruiting cycle of the two species is similar, and I would imagine the flowers and fruit are similarly attractive to pollinators and wildlife alike. Japanese Beautyberry grows faster, but both species can benefit from pruning to within 6”of the ground each spring as they bloom on new growth.

There is an abundance of information (and misinformation) on-line about the many Beautyberry species, some of which have been classified as invasive (Callicarpa dichotoma). Jam recipes were surprisingly popular, which proves the point that when you add enough sugar to anything, it will be edible! Fall is the time to enjoy this shrub. And this fall, I will appreciate the native species even more.

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