Field of Science

Plant of the week - October 21, 2008

Azure beauty berry
Callicarpa dichotoma (Verbena family).

Generally when it comes of fall color you think of plants whose leaves turn a nice bright color. But the beauty berry has the neatest electric blue display of fruits in September and October. This particular one holds a cluster of fruits above each leaf axil on a gracefully arched branch. What could be nicer. This particular fruit color, bright blue, is pretty rare among temperate zone plants, but more common in tropical
forests. This Chinese species has more cold hardiness than American beauty berry.

Small light purple flowers preceed the fruit, and while nice enough, are no match for the fruit display. Flowering and fruiting are on new wood, so the bush is cut back to 12-18" every spring, or you let the bunny rabbits do it for you over the winter. This low shrub grows fine in light to medium heavy shade. You might consider placing it where it could be viewed from above, so next to walkways or below windows.

Now that frugivorous birds are migrating through, the berries are beginning to disappear, so the display definitely attracts some species. This is one of the nearly 150 species growing in my personal arboretum.

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