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Beauty’s Bounty

Beauty’s Bounty

This purple berry nourishes the island.

BY TESS MALONE

Beautyberry’s purple pop of color is speckled across Jekyll Island. From marsh hammocks to the maritime forest, the plant sprouts mostly purple (sometimes pink and white) petals in late spring and early summer, and grows clusters of purple berries around its woody stems come late summer and fall.

Home gardeners can plant this pollinator aid in their yards as understory shrubs. While humans can make a nice jelly or wine out of the berries, they’re not the only ones who use the fruit for sustenance. Small mammals munch on it. And many different songbirds eat the berry and spread its seeds across the island and beyond. Bees enjoy the flower’s nectar.

Still, its best use may be medicinal.

Native American tribes rely on beautyberry roots to alleviate dizziness and stomach aches, the leaves to repel mosquitoes, and a combination of the two to treat everything from malarial fever to rheumatism.

This article first appeared in Volume 6 Number 2 of 31•81, the Magazine of Jekyll Island.

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