Monday, December 01, 2008

American Beautyberry

Scattered throughout the confines of the Big Thicket is a deciduous perennial shrub that produces clusters of magenta colored berries. The American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), also known as the American mulberry, wild goose berry, beautybush and French mulberry, produces pinkish white flowers in June and July and berries from August to January. When I first stumbled across and this plant I immediately had the urge to grab a handful of the pea-sized berries to eat. They are that enticing. Actually this is why plants bear colorful fruit so that they will attract animals in order to disperse their seed. Many animals feed off of the berries of the beautyberry- birds such as towhees, mockingbirds, catbirds, cardinals, robins, thrashers, and finches. White-tailed deer, raccoons, opossums and armadillos also eat them. I’ve read that the fleshy berries make a really good jelly and are also good right off of the plant. Their taste to me is sort of bland with a slight hint of sweetness. Native American Indians produced extracts and teas from the plant’s roots, leaves, berries and branches that was used to treat rheumatism, malarial fevers, dizziness, colic and fluid retention. The rough leaves are slightly aromatic when crushed and when rubbed on your skin is said to repel mosquitoes, ticks, and flies. Since Southeast Texas is mosquito heaven, I’ll have to give this a try next spring.

CAVEAT: Always be sure of a plant's identification before consuming.


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