Darn Birds

This is a photo of my American Beautyberrry (Callicarpa americana).

Sans berries.  The birds, mostly mockingbirds and a few bluejays, ate them.  All of them.  Within  two weeks of the berries turning the signature outrageous purple, the birds ate every last berry.  I’m not a happy Beautyberry gardener.  Never mind that I planted the Beautyberry to attract birds to my garden–surely they could let me enjoy the berries for a while?  This native-to-the-southeastern-part-of-the-United States plant (including Texas), is a large, deciduous shrub.  In August/September it showcases gorgeous purple (sometimes white) fruits or berries.

The arching stems bear the beautiful berries in multiple clusters.  Until those darn birds eat them.

These photos are of  an unmolested Beautyberry at Howson Library Garden.

I don’t know how the many birds that love those berries have managed to miss this shrub, but they have, at least so far.  Some years, I have been able to enjoy the berries on my Beautyberry (just looking, not eating!) well into the winter, even after leaf-drop.  In dry years, my berries disappear shortly after they turn color.  I assume with the drought this year, the birds are eating what they can, as soon as they can.

This is a large shrub, so it’s best to give it room to spread. I’ve never pruned any that I’ve gardened, but they can be pruned to the ground if you want them to be more compact.  Beautyberry shrubs work well as single specimens or, if you have the space, in a colony–they’re quite striking when planted two or three together. In my personal garden, I only have the one shrub, in dappled shade with some very late west sun. They do well in full sun too,  with a little extra water.  The tiny, delicate, pink blooms occur in June and the clusters of green, then purple, berries develop over the summer months. Without the berries, Beautyberry is a somewhat nondescript shrub.  But it is graceful, open and airy, with attractive arching branches and sometimes, the leaves turn a nice yellow before they drop.  After the darn birds and the first hard freeze, the shrub is barren until spring.

In Shay’s Green Garden at Zilker Botanical Gardens there are two Beautyberry shrubs with white berries.  I prefer the purple berries, because the purple is so…bodacious, but the white berries are lovely too.  In that particular garden, I added some White Mistflower (Ageratina havanensis), and some white Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea)  and last fall, the combination was very nice–elegant in fact.  This year, the darn birds and the squirrels, ate the berries immediately, so the garden is not quite so dramatic.  Oh, well.  That’s what happens when you plant native plants that are here for the wildlife.  They chow down.

And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

7 thoughts on “Darn Birds

  1. My beauty berries were gone in the blink of an eye. The old mockingbird. As if that isn’t enough he has been having a good go at my pomegranates too along with the squirrels. I guess they think it is there garden too. Really!


  2. That is so cool! I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone making jelly before–what does it taste like? I’m glad that the birds didn’t get all the berries in Texas.


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