When I first saw Callicarpa, otherwise known as beautyberry, I thought it was a joke of some sort. Or perhaps a modern invention for gardeners who want a certain color of purple in their garden. It seems too bright, too purple, and too candy-colored to be true. But then I read about John Bartram and his plant hunting in early 1700s America. He went to great lengths to find plants to ship back to England to feed the insatiable British hunger for unusual plants. Sure enough, Callicarpa was one of his prized finds.
But still, I didn't add the plant to my landscape until I saw a study that shows beautyberry is a highly effective tick repellent. Turns out the Native Americans used it for that, too. Apparently, it also works to repel fire ants and mosquitos. And so, I now have lots of them planted strategically where my dog and cat rub up against them. And this time of year they are in their full glory, adding color to an otherwise fading garden. The plant is both beautiful and useful.
Nature is amazing.
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.