American beautyberry good food source for wildlife

A catbird feeds on a beautyberry bush

Photo by Ginny Brace

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is a low-growing shrub that attracts birds this time of year with its distinctive purple berries. The shrub makes a fine garden or woods' edge plant, preferably in light shade.

The white flowers that appear in summer all along the branches provide nectar attractive to bees; the purple berries emerge in time to provide fall food for species such as catbirds, cardinals, robins, thrashers, mockingbirds and fall migrants. Beautyberries are also eaten by small mammals and deer. The berries that are not eaten persist after the leaves drop.

The shrub can be pruned back to 6 to 18 inches in early spring because it flowers on new growth. It grows to 3 to 6 feet and can spread to 8 feet in one growing season.

We are at the northern edge of its natural range. It is found as an understory shrub in pine and oak woods. When planning or refurbishing your yard, consider beautyberry or other native plants that provide much-needed fall and winter food for wildlife.

Going nuts

Many of our common nut-producing trees are now shedding their fruit. Depending on your location in Frederick County, you might see a lean or abundant harvest.

Courtesy Photo

Here are some nuts that were collected near Foxville that represent the more common nut- producing trees found in our region. The bitternut hickory has a thin husk and a more pointed nut. Bitternut hickory are normally found in lower-lying moist areas but will not grow in swamps.

The pignut hickory also has a thin bark, but the nut is more rounded and the husk does not split cleanly like the other hickories. Pignut hickories are found in upland areas growing alongside oak trees.

The mockernut hickory is another upland tree growing alongside oak. The husk is thicker than the pignut, and it breaks cleanly. The shagbark hickory has the thickest of husks, and the husk breaks cleanly.

Of the hickories, the shagbark and mockernut are considered the best-tasting. The pignut is OK, and the bitternut lives up to its name.

The butternut or "white walnut" is a fairly rare tree that has been decimated by a blight that has killed about 90 percent of the trees throughout the region. The nut is egg-shaped and the husk has a sticky texture.

The butternut tree looks a lot like its cousin the black walnut, but the bark has a silver sheen to it. The black walnut has a large, round-shaped nut. The black walnut tree is very common in our county and is dropping its fruits now, so be careful if you are walking under a large walnut tree.

Nature Notes for 10/9/2011