By Walt Bonvell
Are you looking for a small shrub with fall character? Every October, people begin asking us—the grounds people—what the shrub is with the purple berries. Well ask no more: It’s the Japanese Beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica), from the family Verbenaceae. It grows 4-feet to 6-feet tall with a similar spread, producing a bushy, rounded shrub with arching branches. And it grows rather fast— the new growth produces the flowers and fruit every fall. If you like the arching style, simply cut it back to the ground every spring. If you prefer the upright style, don’t cut it back. It flowers with pink-and-white blossoms from July through August, and then the fruit—berry-like drupes—start to appear. These drupes are violet to metallic purple, lasting to about two weeks after the leaves fall and are very attractive as food for the birds. The plant likes well-drained soil, full sun to light shade. Callicarpa is most effective when planted in groups in a shrub border. World wide, there are about 140 species of Callicarpa. But there are few fruiting shrubs that can compete with the beautyberries in September or October when they reach the zenith of their fruit bearing.