I love multi-purpose plants, and the American Beautyberry is one of the easiest to grow.
Beautyberry is an attractive landscape plant that requires little care. This shrub has pale pink flowers in the spring that provide nectar for pollinators, and the bright fuschia berries are food for birds in the summer and fall.
The leaves of Beautyberry contain compounds that have antibacterial and pest-deterring properties. Fire ants, ticks, deer flies and mosquitoes are repelled by the plant compounds callicarpenal and intermedeol. Antibiotics, skin care products, and bug repellants are being developed from beautyberry plant extracts. You can make your own repellant by boiling the leaves or soaking them in alcohol.
The fruit of Beautyberry is edible to wildlife and people, but you won’t be impressed with the flavor or texture of the raw berries. However, the fruit does make delicious jelly, syrup, or wine. Native Americans reportedly used the berries in a healing tea.
You can find Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) at native plant nurseries (https://www.plantrealflorida.org/) and Florida Native Plant Society events (https://www.fnps.org/chapters/chapters). This plant prefers part shade and moist soil but is quite adaptable to many conditions. It will grow to about 5 feet-by 5 feet. Beautyberry can be left to grow in it’s natural sprawling form, or you can prune it back once a year after it loses most of it’s berries and leaves in the winter. It will appreciate a little fertilizer in the spring.
For classes and information on Florida landscaping or farming, contact the UF IFAS Extension-Osceola County: 321-697-3000, http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/osceola/.