Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A closer view of American beautyberry fruit

with 31 comments

American Beautyberry Fruit 3954

Click for greater clarity and size.

Callicarpa americana is commonly called American beautyberry because of its clusters of little magenta fruits, many of which embellished the last post. On October 23rd, two weeks before the Arkansas trip, I’d made this closeup of clusters (count them as 2+ or 3-) along Bull Creek in northwestern Austin. The bunch near the center of the photograph was illuminated by a shaft of sunlight, so its colors are a little brighter than those of the other bunches.

According to the revised edition of Texas Wildflowers: “Many birds feed on the berries and will contend with each other to include a bush in their feeding area.” People, on the other hand, may admire the fruits for their colors and use leafless branches of them in cut-plant decorations, but can’t eat them. (UPDATE: you’ll find a revision of that last statement in my reply to a question from Jim, below.)

To see the varied places in the southeastern United States where American beautyberry grows, you can check the state-clickable map at the USDA website.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 25, 2013 at 6:00 AM

31 Responses

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  1. Yes, that’s them all right. I never knew they were called American beauty. They were in the woods next to our house and in the field behind in our small NE TX town. “Don’t eat the berries,” my mother would remind us.


    November 25, 2013 at 6:06 AM

    • I don’t know if the little fruits are poisonous, but they wouldn’t taste good enough to make someone want to eat them. Definitely a case of “Look but do not eat.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2013 at 8:13 AM

  2. I love the beautyberry. Its colors stand out so vividly in a clump of shrubs. Thanks for the ode to the beautyberry!

  3. Beautyberry seems an apt name. They don’t appear in IA by that map. It said people don’t eat them. True?

    Jim in IA

    November 25, 2013 at 8:31 AM

  4. Marvelous!


    November 25, 2013 at 9:27 AM

  5. Those are gorgeous fruits to be sure. Lovely photograph too, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    November 25, 2013 at 6:06 PM

    • Too bad you don’t have these up in New England. I expect you’d photograph them if you did.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2013 at 9:42 PM

  6. I like it, when I took my close-up shots of this plant I went for a diagonal framing. I like the horizontal linear fashion of this framing.

    Maria F.

    November 25, 2013 at 6:44 PM

    • I looked up your diagonal composition, which works well too. I adopted my sideways approach in order to keep as many of the little fruits as possible in focus.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2013 at 9:49 PM

  7. They’re just so beautiful. I especially like the blue-green cast of the leaves, but I can’t get over the color of the fruit. In fact, it looks like someone’s been nibbling, there on the left side.

    From what I can tell, this plant’s not related to the agarita, but it’s interesting that both have a bluish cast to the foliage and both have drupes.


    November 25, 2013 at 7:48 PM

    • You’re right that this is not a relative of agarita. American beautyberry’s leaves are often a light green, and they tend to turn a yellowish green at this time of year, but I’m afraid that any bluish cast in this photograph is due to the shade in which much of the area lay. As for the reduced cluster at the left, yes, some animal appears to have been nibbling there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2013 at 10:02 PM

  8. yum !


    November 25, 2013 at 10:26 PM

  9. I am most intrigued with the colors of these berries and think it would be very hard to duplicate in watercolor. I’m thinking the color opera and some diox violet and even that would not begin to touch what nature and your camera’s eye have found, here. Beautiful.


    November 26, 2013 at 12:16 AM

    • Yes, beautyberries have a color that I can’t recall seeing elsewhere. Luckily for me my camera is pretty good (though hardly infallible) at recording what’s in front of it so I don’t have to worry about trying to recreate a color the way you have to as a painter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 26, 2013 at 12:22 AM

  10. Such an awesome photo. Thank you!

    Mitzi DiMartino Harding

    November 26, 2013 at 10:25 PM

  11. Oh je n’ai jamais vu rien de si beau, on dirait des bijoux, je les verrais bien en boucles d’oreilles ;lol;!


    November 27, 2013 at 4:45 AM

  12. I have been admiring this photo in particular ever since you posted it. We had a beauty berry in our yard on LI and always loved to see its vivid color “out of season,” in a way. What I didn’t know was that birds liked the berries! Our bush never seemed to tempt them, so we thought it might be poisonous to them. Glad to know that’s not the case.

    Susan Scheid

    November 27, 2013 at 6:36 PM

    • I don’t think I knew that you once lived on Long Island: I grew up in Franklin Square, but I took little notice of plants back then. Callicarpa americana is supposedly native only up through the mid-Atlantic states, but I guess people have planted it further north because they, like you, enjoy the vivid color of its fruit.

      This photograph has proved surprisingly (to me) popular, apparently because most readers haven’t seen this species, whereas I often do when I’m wandering along creeks and through woods in Austin. I was more taken with the previous view because of the quantity and density of the fruit on the beautyberry we found in Arkansas, which exceeded anything I’ve ever seen here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2013 at 7:59 PM

  13. Just lovely!!! Your image does them complete justice…. I’ve planted them in my little yard, because our wildlife *really* enjoys these berries. 🙂 And yep, we can eat them as well, heh.


    December 2, 2013 at 9:05 AM

    • It’s good that beautyberry is native in your area, too, and that you’ve planted some in your yard. I’m used to seeing small numbers of clusters, but the great many that I saw in Arkansas (and showed in the previous post) really impressed me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 2, 2013 at 9:17 AM

  14. […] If you’d like a reminder of why this species is called beautyberry, take a look back at a post from 2013. […]

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