Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

American beautyberry flowers

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American Beautyberry Flowers 5896

When I was in Bastrop County on June 4, I was surprised to see an American beautyberry bush, Callicarpa americana, flowering away. I say surprised because I associate this shrub with locations near water, so all the rain we had in the spring must have served in lieu of a creek or pond.

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

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 22, 2015 at 5:17 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

27 Responses

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  1. Beautyberry is all over our woods. I have read that it is one of the natives that proliferates in the regrowth when the original woodland ecology is destroyed… They don’t have much taste raw, but I did make wonderful jelly with them. Even my very picky father asked for more.


    August 22, 2015 at 5:33 AM

    • The jelly must be wonderful, indeed, Aggie, and a beautiful colour, too.


      August 22, 2015 at 6:17 AM

    • I’d read that some people have made jelly from beautyberries, but you’re the first person I’ve known who’s done it (and whose picky father was grateful for it and asked for seconds). What you say about regrowth makes sense in Bastrop, where I’ve seen various unaccustomed species spring up in the years following the devastating fire that destroyed 90% of the pine forest. I hadn’t heard that beautyberry is known for doing that, so thanks for the information. You’re fortunate to have a lot of these in your woods.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2015 at 6:46 AM

      • If I can find the source I will post it. The same source said that when original flora is destroyed, the original mix of plants is never restored. That is not what I expected from the idea of succession that I knew. Steve, I sure do appreciate your blog and your followers.


        August 24, 2015 at 6:13 AM

        • I’m glad you’re enjoying it and them.

          If I can slip into the role of math teacher for a moment, I’ll say this about the notion that “the original mix of plants is never restored.” Never is a long time, and anything that’s theoretically possible will eventually happen if there’s enough time. In practical terms, however, the statement seems as if it’s probably correct. In any area there are dozens or hundreds of plant species, so it’s highly unlikely that the same mix would reestablish itself after a huge fire; there are just too many possible combinations of species to expect a replica.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 24, 2015 at 6:29 AM

          • Haha, you got me. I always think of that concept that everything possible will happen if we observe long enough as physics. The introduction of my thermodynamics text stated that a house could spontaneously disintegrate, but the probable observation time was gazillions of years, a number that I don’t remember.

            The point was that a few species, invasive or native, would dominate, rather than hundreds. My early impression is that, if we have much knowledge of ecology and restoring ecology, it’s not easily accessible. I’d like to get around to reading some academic work.


            August 24, 2015 at 6:41 AM

            • I believe various botanists are keeping track of what has been happening in Bastrop since the fire, so we should know what things came up when.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 24, 2015 at 6:48 AM

              • As someone who lives in the burn area, I can tell you that the Fire hasn’t seemed to make a difference in the quantity of Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry or even French mulberry). It still is everywhere. When I moved here in 1982 I transplanted many plants that weren’t anywhere near water to various areas. They are still alive some 30+ years later!
                I don’t think we have any clue as to what the “original woodland ecology” was, since the pines were logged out many years ago. What I had before the Fire is what could survive in the dense yaupon, farkleberry, pine, oaks, and cedars forest. One of the botanists who did an extensive survey of Bastrop State Park in 2012 was Bill Carr, one of the co-authors of Rare Plants of Texas, published in 2007 by the TAMU press.

                Great photos Steve! I enjoy all of your posts. Thanks for sharing!

                Judy T

                August 24, 2015 at 10:05 PM

                • Thanks for letting us know there had been more beautyberry in the area before the fire than I realized, and that some have been alive for more than 30 years.

                  Last year I went on an all-day field trip to Bastrop, and it was led by Bill Carr (whose book I also have). I took so many photographs that I got a month’s worth of posts out of the trip.

                  I’m glad you’re enjoying the picture that appear here. Thanks for letting me know.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 24, 2015 at 10:40 PM

  2. Very (or is it berry?) beautiful. I took some photos today for the first time in weeks. They didn’t capture the beauty of the bloom but it was good to be outdoors again taking photos.


    August 22, 2015 at 6:23 AM

    • On behalf of the outdoors and your camera and impending spring in the Southern Hemisphere, let me interpret for the beautyberry and say that it welcomes you back.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2015 at 7:19 AM

  3. I’ve never seen the flowers. They’re certainly as attractive as the berries, but I’ve only seen those in Heavener, Oklahoma, at the runestone park. When I looked at my photos, I realized they were growing in a ravine, along some little streams and near some wet, dripping cliffs that I later learned are called wet-weather waterfalls: just a bit of confirmation for your suggestion that they enjoy growing near water.

    From what I see on the USDA map, they’re here, but I suspect I need to get away from the coast to find them. It’s interesting that the Ouachita Mountains are shown as the northern boundary of their range.


    August 22, 2015 at 7:18 AM

  4. I remember that previous post and comments. If we had that plant around here, I would remember it due to the unique color. As for edible, I still am not adventurous in that regard.

    Jim in IA

    August 22, 2015 at 8:13 AM

    • After we discussed this in November of 2013, I nibbled a beautyberry fruit but didn’t find it tasty. I’ve never had the opportunity to try the jelly, but people like Aggie above and others whose accounts I’ve found online have done so and lived to tell the tale. I’m sorry plant this doesn’t grow in your part of the country, because the colorful fruits are quite a sight against the greenery of the bush, and the fruits often persist and provide color during the initial bleakness of winter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2015 at 8:46 AM

  5. This is the first I’ve ever heard or, as far as I know, seen of this bush. Thanks again for expanding our horizons of awareness!


    August 22, 2015 at 10:11 AM

    • You’re welcome. I’m afraid this species doesn’t make it as far north as Nebraska, but here in the wooded parts of Austin I find it often enough, so I’d say it’s pretty common.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2015 at 10:20 AM

  6. Sweetly perky…


    August 22, 2015 at 10:37 AM

  7. Another plant I’ve never seen, for good reason as they don’t grow anywhere near here, but the flowers are lovely. The berries are edible although many think they are poisonous. We have Russian Olive plants here that I didn’t think were edible but, although tart, the berries are used to make leather roll-ups by a neighbor. The flowers aren’t as lovely as you are showing us here.

    Steve Gingold

    August 22, 2015 at 5:12 PM

    • I hope you won’t grow tired of the song I keep singing, whose words say to come on down to Texas and see some of our botanical wonders.

      I wasn’t familiar with Russian olive, but at

      Click to access autumn-and-russian-olive.pdf

      I found a document that lists it and another Eurasian olive as alien invasives in the United States. I recognize the genus name Elaeagnus from a common local wildflower here that’s in the nightshade family, Solanum elaeagnifolium, whose species name means ‘having leaves like Elaeagnus’; now I know what Elaeagnus is. It’s good to hear that your neighbor has found a use for the fruits of the Russian olive.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2015 at 7:57 PM

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