Beautyberry/Callicarpa AmericanaCrystal Calhoun
What is it? The American Beautyberry is a beautiful plant used by animals as the last possible option for food on account of its tasteless berries. However, Native Americans found the beautyberry quite useful and implemented it into their daily lives as both a medicinal aid, and even a mosquito repellant.
Where to find it? Beautyberries grow well in rocky, well-drained, acidic soil with semi-shade. It does better in full sun, but the beautyberries I grew up with were deep in the woods and doing fine. Beautyberries don’t grow near rivers, swamps, or places where the soil is constantly moist. The American Beautyberry is usually found in the southern states, such as Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. But they also grow in Florida and the states surrounding it.
What to eat? Unfortunately, you can only eat the berries, but the Native Americans used many parts of the beautyberry for medicinal purposes. The berries can be eaten raw, cooked, jammed, jellied, or turned into wine. The berries have little taste or sweetness to them, so most foragers add flavor and sugar to the recipes for a more desirable product.
When to find it? You can easily find this shrub all year except during winter unless you have the bark memorized or you already know where one grows. During the spring, it’s just leaves and little flowers growing in a round cluster attached to the leaf stems. Suring the summer berries start to form, and into late summer the harvesting can begin. For some states like Oklahoma, fall is better time to harvest the red/purplish berries.
What does it look like? American Beautyberry is a medium sized shrub, with large ovate and teethed leaves growing in pairs opposite from one another straight off the main branch. Where the leaves connect, the flowers or berries are found. The flowers are small and white, and the berries are small, clustered, and red/purplish hue. Depending on the age, the bark can be green, or a light brown color.
How to enjoy it? The berries can be jellied, jammed, or turned into wine. But the Native Americans used this plant in many different ways. However, take precautions and always do your own research before trying any of their methods to be safe. The leaves were used as a cure for dropsy. A tea made from the roots aided the healing from dysentery, stomach aches, and even colic. They also took sweat baths made from the roots and leaves to treat malaria, rheumatism, and fevers. And a decoction of the root bark was used as a diuretic.