American Beautyberry Bush: Insect Repellant, Fire Ant Deterrent, Delicious Jellies and Wines, and a Cure for Rheumatism, Colic and More!
“American Beautyberry, sometimes called French Mulberry, Callicarpa americana is a US native deciduous shrub that grows wild from Maryland to Florida and west through Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas. It’s in the Vervain family (Verbenaceae).
The plants and berries are also attractive to a variety of wildlife. Lots of birds dine on the fresh berries and seeds, including over forty songbirds, and even the raisins are consumed. Beautyberries are an important food source for many birds, such as bobwhite quail, robins, cardinals, catbirds, finches, mockingbirds, thrashers and towhees.
Other animals that eat the fruit include armadillos, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, gray foxes, and some rodents. The white tail deer will browse the leaves. Sometimes deer bed down in the beautyberry bushes, which brings up another subject: the plant’s ability to repel insects.
The beautyberry plant has been a traditional folk remedy for repelling mosquitoes, horseflies, deerflies, ticks, and other biting insects for over a century. Folks in the Appalachia would cut the leafy branches, crush the leaves, and then place the branches between the harness and the horse to keep deerflies, horseflies, and mosquitoes away. We have tried using crushed beautyberry leaves and berries to repel mosquitoes. More recently, scientific studies have been done to confirm that the leaves of Callicarpa americana contain compounds that definitely repel mosquitoes and other biting insects. Another exciting finding in more recent studies is that the leaves of Callicarpa contain terpenoids that repel fire ants.
All parts of Callicarpa americana were used by the Alabama, Choctaw, Creek, Koasati, Seminole, and other Native American tribes. Roots, leaves, berries, and stems were used as the base for various teas and decoctions. Root and leaf tea was used in sweat baths for rheumatism, fevers, and malaria. Root tea was used for dysentery and stomach aches. The root and berries were used for colic and as a treatment for a wide variety of common ailments. It was also used in ceremonies. The bark from the stems and the roots were used to treat itchy skin.” (National Gardening Association; Photo by Renee Raney)