The Purpling

Days are noticeably shorter now in late August.  Darkness greets my morning alarm and birds are quiet until well after I’m up and about.  Nightfall appears earlier, much more than a mere few weeks ago.  Autumn is palpable, though certainly not with cooler temperatures, at least not here in Central Texas.  Our daily (today marked number 43) century-plus numbers are still in play, but seasonal change is afoot.

This cluster of beauty berries showcases the transformation from green to purple.  The bird poop on the leaves is extra decoration.

In the last couple of weeks, the American beautyberryCallicarpa americana, has slipped out of its summer wardrobe and donned its hooray for autumn swag.  Eye-candy for the gardener and nutritious fruits for birds, the green, clustered drupes, grown since June from the remains of dainty pink blooms, have morphed to brilliant, metallic purple berries.

Green fruits,

…to purple.

This particular shrub in my back garden is about 3 years old and finally exhibiting its graceful arching form.

Berries are cream-to-green, but purple-up over 7-10 days .  Triggered by the maturity of the drupe (and maybe light?), it’s a seasonal change I look forward to each hot August.

It gives me hope for the autumn to come.

Berries gather like bunches of party balloons along the branches of the shrub, the purple overwhelming the green, ready to pop in some lucky bird’s beak.


This beautyberry will grow larger, eventually filling the area of this small garden.


This beautyberry is the same age as the one above, but I transplanted it to a different spot in my front garden exactly one year ago.

Beautyberry is a good shade plant, though this one receives more sun than the back garden beautyberry. I’ve noticed that it’s grown more quickly, but has also required more water.  In fact, the slight droop of the leaves in this photo indicates a thirsty plant.  Since June, I’ve watered this shrub once per week, significantly more than the back garden beautyberry, which grows in shade.

In my garden, Blue Jays and Mockingbirds are the main consumers of these berries.  Some years, the beautyberry greedy birds descend and devour the berries just as they turn color; other years, the berries remain on the shrub well into winter, the birds obviously getting sustenance somewhere else.

And that’s fine with me.

I prefer those years when the birds let me enjoy the beauty of the berries, at least for a time.

24 thoughts on “The Purpling

  1. I love this plant and the promise it brings of fall, too. Mine seem to still be stuck in summer mode, but you’ve given me hope they’ll start turning purple soon. Thanks for sharing!


    • It should turn soon and then you can break out the mittens and coats. NOT! 🙂

      I do hope yours purples-up and you can enjoy the berries before the birds nosh.


  2. I just noticed the berries in my area have changed. They grow on our greenbelts, so I enjoy them in the woods. I am ready for a break in the heat. My flowers are starting to bloom more, but wilt under the hot sun.


  3. Tina is a very beautiful plant, lovely with its berries that turn from green to purple at the end of August. They have a purple color that I like very much like the plant with its green leaves. Food for the birds and beauty for the eyes: it has everything. Tina thank you very much for showing us this beautiful plant because here in Spain we do not have it. Thank you. Greetings from Margarita.


    • Oh, that’s interesting. I guess I would assume that your wetter, cooler climate would make any plant happier. I saw some cultivars of the beautyberry in British Columbia a couple of years ago–just gorgeous shrubs. Big, full and the fruits were a deep purple and lush!


  4. Well, phooey. This was the summer I was going to be sure to find beauty berries in bloom, and get some photos. I guess I missed that, for sure. They are one of my favorite plants. The last time I was in Arkansas, I pulled into a sort-of-road outside Mena that was full of tall, tall goldenrod. I was astonished to discover beauty berry — deep purple beauty berry — mixed in with the goldenrod. It was gorgeous.

    I did notice just a few berries on a local bush two weeks ago. They still were pinkish, but on the way. It is funny how some years they disappear pronto, and some years they linger. I suppose it does have to do with how much other food is around.

    Have you ever had beauty berry jelly? It never occurred to me that it would work as well as agarita or other berries, but there’s a native plant person in Florida who makes it and sells it online. You never know!


    • Yeah, gotta get out in June to see the dainty blooms. They’re really pretty and in such contrast with the garish fruits which come after. I love the combo of beautyberry with goldenrod, or anything yellow for that matter. And yes, some years the berries disappear seemingly overnight after the ripening, other years (this one?!), they remain, beautiful and uneaten for the gardeners to enjoy. I’ve never made the jelly, but know it’s something people do. I’ve also heard the the leaves (or more precisely, the liquid from the leaves), when rubbed on skin, are good moquito repellents. All around, a great plant!


  5. I’ve failed to grow Beautyberry more than once, though both times it was the compact Asian species. I’ve never tried the North American species, but I don’t think it would be hardy here.


  6. We’ve had unusual high-summer weather lately–heat, humidity, torrential rain–so fall seems far off. But I have noticed the morning and evening light changing. Some plants are showing signs of senescence. Beautyberries are so pretty. I have a couple of smaller hybrid ‘Pearl Glam’ shrubs. I hope they’ll really settle in during the next couple of years. The foliage is pretty, too.


    • I hope your fall temperatures arrive soon, though I know that winter would be just around the corner. I don’t know ‘Pearl Glam’, though I like the name. 🙂


  7. Those berries are so fantastic! Wish I had room/enough light for a Callicarpa to thrive. I tried once, but ended up re-homing it. Now – in a better place – it is spectacular, and I get to admire it only occasionally.


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