Fall months bring a new and different pallet of vibrant autumn leaves and colorful foliage. Nestled into the comforting earthtones and the beautiful reds, golden ambers and burnt sienna is a burst of familiar purple clusters of berries called the Louisiana Beauty Berries.
Louisiana Beauty Berry bushes are multi stemmed deciduous shrubs that can grow six to eight feet tall in the wild and are native to Louisiana. Aptly named, these beauties are mostly disease and pest free and serve as a crucial food source for over 509 native birds and other wildlife including rodents, armadillos, raccoons, and deer. Bees, butterflies and other insects also dine on the nectar of the purple delights.
Beauty berries are reputed to be also safe for human consumption when eaten raw in small amounts, according to some sources. Many claim the berries are best enjoyed when picked and made into jelly or wine. The unique flavor has a mildly bitter taste with a touch of spice which distinguishes it from other berries. When used in jellies, the sweetness is enhanced and is more appealing to the pallet. Recipes for the jellies can be found on-line and directions should be closely followed.
High in Vitamin C, Louisiana Beauty Berries have also been shown to be potentially useful in repelling mosquitoes, ticks and other annoying insects such as ants. Scientists have proven the repellent quality of the compounds exist in the leaves and confirmed it to be comparable to DEET. Currently research is being conducted to establish if the compounds found in the berries could be used to treat cancer and memory loss. The vibrant purple berries release an aroma like citronella or fresh lemon and the name translates to “beautiful fruit”.
Historically berries were used for various medical needs and purposes. It was even boiled with the juices extracted and used to treat malaria fever and rheumatism, but the success level is vague. Other past uses include farmers from the early 20th century crushing the leaves and placing them under horses’ harnesses to deter biting bugs from harming their livestock. People also utilized the oil from the crushed leaves on their skin to achieve the same effect.
Beauty berries dress the local landscape and are mostly seen growing wild to be enjoyed by people and wildlife. In areas where the bush is not native, it has been cultivated to use in gardens and landscapes. When planted domestically, pruning is required to maintain its shape and increase blooms for the next Spring season. It must be planted in moist and well-drained soil in full to part shade, five to seven feet apart and does best in mass plantings. Late fall is the best time to transplant shrubs.
For those desiring to make jelly from the berries, the season is growing short, and the berries are quickly being consumed by animals who enjoy the fruit. The beauty of the Louisiana Beauty Berry shrubs will soon leave the local landscapes not to return until the seasons come and go and the fall leaves once again grace the timber and bushes of the woods and roadsides. In the meantime, enjoy the lovely purple hues and clusters of the Louisiana Beauty Berries as the season peaks and then fades.
Wild and free, these lovely shrubs only make a brief appearance once a year before retreating into dormancy.