Beautyberry: Jelly on a Roll

by Green Deane

in Antioxidants, Edible Raw, Fruits/Berries, Miscellaneous, Plants, Recipes, Trees/Shrubs

American Beautyberries cluster around the stem

Beautyberry: Callicarpa Americana

The Beautyberry is squirrel’s version of take out.

Squirrels will often break off a branch a foot or two long and carry it to an oak tree penthouse to enjoy.  Mockingbirds and other birds are also exceptionally fond of the Beauty Berry. Humans are not as enthusiastic.

“Insipid” is the word usually used to describe its gustatory qualities.  The truth is the berries of the Beauty Berry, or Beautyberry  (Callicarpa americana, (kar-lee-KAR-pa a-mair-ee-KAY-na) while an attractive magenta, are mealy and almost flavorless. Their only immediate pallet character is a little texture from a tiny seed.  But, this is not to say the Beautyberry– also called the Beautybush — is worthless to man nor beast. While this writer knows of no nutritional analysis of the Beautyberry, it might have similar antioxidant and vitamin properties as other colored, edible fruit. Many web sites warn not to eat the berries, and some call them poisonous. They are not poisonous but I suppose if one is going to make a mistake it is better to say something is poisonous when it is not than edible when it is poisonous. And for the record, worldwide there are about 140 different species of Callicarpa. The leaves of this one, incidentally, make an excellent fish poison for stunning them.

Berries ready to be made into jelly

Blooming pink in spring and fall, the Beautyberry has fruit clustered along the stem. The berries are slightly astringent and best eaten raw only a few at a time. Where Beautyberries excels is in making jelly. Beautyberry jelly is exceptionally good.  (See recipe below.) Perhaps drying or cooking eliminates any astringency. I make Beautyberry jelly nearly every weekend it is in season as well as Pyracantha jelly (see my blog Firethorn and Santa Claus.)

Dr. Julia Morton, a famed research professor of biology at the University of Miami said this about the Beauty Berry in her book ‘Wild Plants for Survival in South Florida:”  “The rank odor of the plant makes nibbling of [berry] bunches on the stem unpleasant.”

Her point was well taken: There are three chemicals in the leaves scientists are trying to replicate for mosquito repellent. They may be as effective as DEET, according to researchers with the USDA. The chemicals, particularly one called callicarpenal, showed significant bite-deterring activity against the yellow-fever mosquito and the mosquito that spreads malaria. Callicarpenal and other compounds isolated from the plant also repelled fire ants and ticks.

Native Indians had many uses for the Beautyberry, among them: A decoction of the root bark as a diuretic; the leaves for dropsy; a tea from the roots for dysentery and stomach aches; A tea made from the roots and berries for colic; and, the leaves and roots in sweat baths for the treatment of malaria, rheumatism and fevers. This author can only speak to the use of berries in jelly, and leaves as an external mosquito repellent.  However, a study published 6 Feb 2007 Journal of Natural Products suggests the C. Americana has anti-cancer potential.

The Japanese Beautyberry’s fruit is on stems away from the main stem.

A fairly common Beautyberry that is an ornamental is the Callicarpa japonica. It is easy to identify from the American Beautyberry because its fruit are on long stems away form the main branch. American Beautyberries wrap around the main stem. More so, the C. japonica is long banched, skinny and skinny leafed, weeping, the C. americana is not. While there are no reports of edibility of the C. japonica’s berries that I know of (in English) the leaves are dried and used to make a tea. I do know of one person, however, who tells me she makes jelly out of C. japonica berries. There are also a few other Asian Callicarpas that have edible or medicinal parts. Callicarpa dichotoma berries are too bitter to consume.

The Beautyberry is a cousin of the smelly Lantana and the Oaxaca Lemon Verbena, which I also have in my yard. I got the Oaxaca from a Greek friend of mine who got it from a Hispanic neighbor. How this supposedly exceptionally rare plant got from one particular isolated spot in southern Mexico to Central Florida I do not know. It doesn’t even have an established common name, but it makes a nice lemon-flavored herbal tea. (See my article on Oaxaca lemon verbena.)

The following jelly recipe is from “Florida’s Incredible Wild Edibles” by Richard Deuerling and Peggy Lantz. The book is for sale on Amazon. Many years ago I used to wander through the Florida landscape with Dick and Peggy and others on outings with the Native Plant Society. They taught me a lot. The only problem with going into the wilds with such folks is it takes about an hour to go a hundred feet because there is so much to be said about the plants one knows, and debates, usually over some unidentifiable “dirty little composite.”  Here is a link to their book:

 Beautyberry Jelly

1 ½ qts. of Beautyberries, washed and clean of green stems and leaves. Cover with 2 qts. water.Boil 20 minutes and strain to make infusion. Use 3 cups of the infusion, bring to boil, add 1 envelope Sure-Jell and 4 ½ cups sugar. Bring to second boiland boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until foam forms. Skim off foam, pour into sterilized jars, cap.

UPDATE: One of my students, Fred, does a lot of foraging and has lived his life in mosquito-ladened Florida. He reports: [Beautyberry’s]  “jelly is awesome but I really love the beautyberry for its insect repellent properties. After learning about this from a Green Deane class and being an avid forager myself I decided to use the beautyberry as a bug repellent so it wouldn’t slow down my summer foraging (Florida summer mosquitoes can be horrible). I pretty much chopped up a plant(leaves and stems) and boiled it in a pot and let it cool and strained the brown liquid into my blender, about 1 1/2 cups. In a separate pot I warmed some organic neem oil (1 cup) with 1 ounce of beeswax until melted. Then you turn the blender on and pour in the oil mixture very slowly and it becomes a cream. I have to say hands down the best insect repellent ever! Because its a creme on july/august days one application is all you need for the entire day even when your sweating.”

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: A small, deciduous shrubs 1 to 2 m in height, leaves opposite, elliptical to ovate, large, with saw-toothed edges.  Flowers cluster around stem, funnel-shaped with four clefs.  Fruit magenta 2 to 4 seeds, White fruited ones are an escaped cultivar and edibility is unknown.

TIME OF YEAR: Spring and fall in Florida, late summer to fall in northern climes

ENVIRONMENT: Dry,open woods, moist woods, thickets and hammocks, adapted to climates with hot, humid summers and moderate winters

METHOD OF PREPARATION: A few berries can be eaten raw, depending upon your agreeing with the flavor, otherwise makes a great jelly. The berries can be used to make a tea with antioxidants.


Native American Indians used the roots and leaves to make a tea to treat fever, dysentery, malaria and rheumatism


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{ 80 comments… read them below or add one }

Zachabriel September 26, 2015 at 17:36

I love this site. My husband and I forage frequently as a shared hobby. I have used the beauty berry to make my own ink for years and always just called it the ink berry. Now I know! We will be making Jelly, insect repellent, fish stunner and ink. :)


Naeemah September 24, 2015 at 16:59

Thanks Green Dean I found this plant today on my walk I did not know what they were until now thanks


Beth September 23, 2015 at 12:10

I picked my berries yesterday. I will be adding apple peel to the mix that will be removed later. Also I will be using apple cider as part of the liquid. Making sure it will gel.


mark jr. September 18, 2015 at 14:45

Could I be allergic to them? When I bit one my mouth felt really painful and that feeling persisted for about ½ an hour. After that my mouth was numb for about 1 hours. I do not thank I got the wrong plant. I would like to make jam but I am afraid it might be to it of a risk.


Green Deane September 18, 2015 at 17:14

There is no accounting for personal allergies but I have not heard of anyone having such a reaction.


Laura September 8, 2015 at 09:59

My family and friends love Beauty Berry jelly. I have only been making it for four years and it is frustrating. Some batches come out perfectly, others very soft set. I have increased the acid level with lemon juice and have begun increasing the pectin. It may be the berries. I had frozen several batches of infusion. I defrosted 2, made 2 separate batches of jelly with increased pectin, one set perfectly the other is almost syrup. I wish I had noted which plants and how ripe the berries were. It must be the berry or plant.


Danny September 4, 2015 at 09:23

I love the taste and smell of this jelly. Experimented with the recipe initially provided in this page to be able to make a little over 4 pints per batch!
11 cups ripe beautyberries
6 cups water
juice of 3 yellow lemons = 1/3 to ½ cup
7½ cups white granulated sugar (Domino)
2 packages Sure-Jell pectin (49 gr. ea = 1.75 oz. ea)

Remove pieces of stems, leaves, and immature chinch bugs and spiders! Rinse well, 3X on colander. Bring 11 cups of cleaned berries and 6 cups of water to a boil in a SS pot. Slow boil and cook, partially covered for 40 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes. Color fades and becomes somewhat off-color.
After 40 minutes, remove from heat, strain and press through a fine sieve—or use a jelly bag. Pressing through a fine sieve like a Chinois, yields more pulp. Pressing through a jelly bag yields less liquid, but makes a transparent jelly.
Medium/high boil the liquid and reduce it to 5 cups. Add the fresh juice of the 3 lemons, stir well. At this point the color transforms back to the magenta color of the skin of the fresh berry!
Return to a rolling boil.
Immediately add 1 cup sugar mixed with the pectin powder from the 2 packages, stir well and return to a rolling boil. After one minute add remaining 6½ cups of sugar. When it is again on a rolling boil, cook for only 1 minute.
Remove from the heat. Let the foam come to the surface (1 min), skim off (you lose too much good stuff this way), or slowly swirl in pan to make foam cling to the sides (pot with high sides is desirable), pour into clean jars. Or just push foam back with a spoon while pouring into jars! Yields a little over 4 pints.
Process in boiling water for 15 minutes.


Betsy Holmes September 3, 2015 at 03:09

Green Deane, re: your student Fred’s homemade beautyberry cream:
I wonder if Fred would consider selling a jar of his cream? The 25-year old me would have had it made already, but the 64-year old me is seeking an alternative way! Would happily reimburse Fred for his creation if he could spare some


Ila September 22, 2015 at 10:24

I’m gonna be makin some for my kids since one is highly allergic to red ants so I’m gonna give the cream a try post your email an I’ll contact u since I don’t mind I’ll make u a cream to no charge though I don’t mind will be fun new experiment with kids.


elizabeth hollingsworth August 31, 2015 at 00:14

how can you tell when the berries are ripe for picking?


Green Deane August 31, 2015 at 15:20

They turn magenta color, as in the photos.


Denise Bowen September 30, 2015 at 13:11

my uncle gave me this plant before he died an ive just found out what it was The Beautyberry i cant believe i have such a wonderful plant because i named it after him and i always name my plants and they grow so much better. I wanted to use some of the branches to make decorations and flower arrangements do you have any suggestions on how i can perserve them so that they dont turn colors or dry out.


Green Deane September 30, 2015 at 13:32

I am not an expert on preservation but I do know the plant gets rather ratty when it dies. Maybe drying it when it is healthy might make a difference.


Sue Ellen McGoey August 20, 2015 at 03:23

I macerated the leaves of my blackberry in a quart bottle of apple cider vinegar, which I shake daily. I am letting it sit 3 weeks and testing as a pest repellent, will let you know if it works,


JT April 14, 2015 at 12:12

I made my first batches of Jelly last year with the plants on my property. I harvested the berries as they became more purple. The first batch was a hit as Christmas presents and everyone wants more this year. I picked some before the Freeze last year and froze them for future makings. I’m experimenting with how long to let the berries stay on the bush as they remain purple for a long time. I’m wondering if anyone has notice a difference in taste or quality the longer the berries stay on the bush. Also, I’m not agreeing exactly with the recipe. It seems that I have to use more Sure-Jell than what the recipe calls for. Almost double and it only happens when I’m making Beauty Berry Jelly. Any comments?


Green Deane April 14, 2015 at 17:32

Out of my cooking league… but my experience was a lot of pectin is necessary…


Rebecca November 17, 2014 at 12:55

Amazing! I just learned a few years ago about the mosquito repelling properties of the beautyberry, but had no clue that you could make jelly from it. Here in south Alabama, they are everywhere! I’ll be making some of this jelly next year. I love making “weird jellies”. I think I read somewhere that jelly can also be made from pyracantha berries? Please correct me if I’m wrong. The weirdest I’ve made so far is corncob jelly…and it was delicious!


Jake October 31, 2014 at 12:38

Hello, Thank you very much for this helpful article! I’ve made a few jars of jelly with your recipe, and they’re delicious! But I do have a concern that was also asked here, but never answered, do you know if the beauty berries are acidic enough to ward off botulism? Or do you need to add some acidic to the jelly?


Green Deane November 1, 2014 at 08:31

I’ve never heard the issue brought up and my answer is I don’t know.


Nance October 21, 2014 at 14:32

I crumble the leaves and rub on my legs, neck and arms to keep away skeeters! Is there a way to make a spray? Can I use it around my chickens and bunnies? Sorry, haven’t had time to read everyone’s comments, but I will. Forgive me if I am asking something that has already been replied too! Nance


Dave September 30, 2014 at 21:37

What is the clear liquid you pour over the jelly before capping in your video? Lemon juice?


Green Deane October 1, 2014 at 06:54

Hot paraffin wax. It cools to a hard plug.


Charmaine September 23, 2014 at 12:07

We live on 45 acres, 35 acres are woods and we have over 100 Beautyberry bushes. Since we don’t eat much sugar we don’t make much jelly. We don’t want the berries to go to waste so I have fed the berries to our chickens, they love them. It cuts down on the feed bill too.


Suenell September 7, 2014 at 11:30

Your recipe said:
1 ½ qts. of Beautyberries, washed and clean OF green stems and leaves.

Does this mean to remove them FROM the green stems & leaves or to boil them WITH the green stems & leaves? I’m sorry but this is confusing me.


Green Deane September 7, 2014 at 18:31

You make the jelly just with the berries. No green parts or stems. I have a video on You Tube showing how. Search for Green Deane beautyberry jelly.


Mike t September 6, 2014 at 12:27

you can get a viable wax for this purpose from the wax myrtle berries


Mike t September 6, 2014 at 12:25

Robert m you can get a viable wax from the wax myrtle berries


Pamela September 16, 2015 at 13:58

When are these available usually? I have a Myrtle tree, is that the same thing? Also, I found a “loan” beauty berry in my driveway, in bloom. I would love to spread it over my 80 acres! It’s a beautiful plant. What’s the best way to cultivate it?


Linda B September 3, 2014 at 01:51

Do any of you have some seeds you could possible send me, I would truly love some. Thanks


Alutz December 17, 2014 at 14:37

I am about to head into the woods to harvest some for jelly. I can send you some.


Green Deane December 17, 2014 at 15:21

I have plenty now, thank you.


Brook August 1, 2014 at 16:16

I threw some bird feed over the fence one time. Then these pretty berries grew. I told my son go show your mom these because they were beautiful. Well, needless to say he messed up the translation of what I told him. He told her to try them I sent them to her. I later went in the house and asked her what she thought of them. She said they tasted ok but not great. I about fell on the floor. I didn’t know what they were. she was still feeling ok so I went online to see if they were edible and what the were. The rest is history, needless to say we get a laugh out of it now. But at the time i panicked.


Charmaine June 28, 2014 at 11:31

Thank you so much for this web site. I am new to plant identification and eating weeds. We live on 45 acres in a hammock and I have always wondered what this plant growing all over was. It likes to get along our horse fence and the roots and plant are a pain to get out. But now I can make jelly out of it and mosquito repellant, how neat.
Mr. Dean do you ever go to people’s property for identification of plants? Maybe hold a class here, we are only an hour from Gainesville. Students would be welcome to take as much of the plants as they wish.


Green Deane July 7, 2014 at 15:42

Yes I do, and often I try to arrange it when I am teaching in the area.


MAURA FARRELL MILLER November 30, 2013 at 21:35

Beautyberry will self propagate and in a few years you can have many bushes and a bumper crop!


Michael November 13, 2013 at 13:31

Thank you for another great video. Used this with other sources to confirm that I had a Beautyberry bush “volunteer” in my yard. After your video, was compelled to make some jelly and was pleased to harvest 1.5 quarts of berries from a single plant. Your recipe produced 10 pints of a soft set, mild yet distinct sweet jelly with a beautiful red/pink color. Everyone that has tasted it loves it. Saving berries as seeds for next year. What a fantastic weed :)


Kathy November 7, 2013 at 16:26

Do American Beauty Berries self pollenate?
Do you need more than one or a male/female combo?


Green Deane November 7, 2013 at 17:41

They self-pollenate. You only need one.


Paul Ashbrook October 24, 2013 at 15:29

Thanks tons to all of the people above who contributed to this discussion. It took me about an hour to stumble upon an article about this berry’s eating qualities, etc., and you all rewarded me.


Kim Northrop October 22, 2013 at 10:09

Does anyone have any idea of the acidity of Beauty Berry? I pretty much only make preserves with enough acidity so that botulism is impossible. I did see one jelly recipe where someone added lemon juice. Wondering if it is necessary. Thanks! Kim


Aggie October 10, 2013 at 21:17

Deane, thank you so much for the jelly recipe. They don’t taste like much off the bush, but the jelly is great!


Michele September 19, 2013 at 21:17

I made the jelly last year – it was delicious! This year we picked way too many berries to go through in a weekend..took us forever because I get a little carried away (maybe) ditching the little green caps that attaches the stem to the berry.
I let my infusion sit almost three weeks. Is it mildewed or is it sugar coming to the top? (good size white “flecks” -some together, some by themselves) We just had a wild three weeks since making the fusion and couldn’t find time to finish it all.
I hate to waste it, but if it is mildew, its best. If it is sugar, well, that is another story entirely.


Michele September 19, 2013 at 22:31



Stacy August 21, 2013 at 01:00

From what I read above, it sounds as though what I have growing in several spots in my yard (northwest of Houston, TX) is the C. Japonica variety. It fits the description well, and has bunches of purple berries this time every year. I am curious how to tell for sure if they are ripe? I’d love to make jam or something with them, before the squirrels eat them all in their Oak Treehouse (ha ha).
Can you tell me how to be sure they’re ripe? Don’t want to be feeding myself and the kids toxic berries, obviously.


Green Deane August 21, 2013 at 07:10

How do you know it is C. japonica. The term “bunches” bothers me. The different species produce “bunches” differently. One clusters the stem like a muff, the other is little clumps on the end of stems. They are ripe when they are lavender, or magenta.


Michele September 19, 2013 at 22:30

The leaves in our area are a little smaller than the ones Green Dean shows in his video-probably because it is a little cooler here in winter.
There is a ton of C Americana around north Houston (The Woodlands/Conroe/Magnolia area). I would think it is likely growing wild in the Cypress area too.
google goggles confirmed my plants as C. Americana. I thought they were, but it was nice to get that extra assurance.


kenneth July 21, 2013 at 13:57

can i plant the berries to grow a plant and when is the best time to harvest the berry to plant it. if not the berry then what part of the plant do i use to start my own beautyberry plant.


Green Deane July 21, 2013 at 14:57

yes you can plant the berres. Pick them when they are magenta color, let them dry out of the sun, then plant under an inch of soil.


Mama Vickie June 15, 2013 at 10:26

We are blessed to live on 5 acres in zone 6b, heat zone 7. There’s an entire colony of mockingbirds next door who sing loud and long. When I’m outside planting, pulling weeds or filling the bird feeders at least one of those clowns follows me!
Next year we will be planting several beautyberry bushes to thank them for the songs I’ve enjoyed so often. Is there any other plant they like?



Kurt March 24, 2013 at 23:06

It’s funny to think that I was told that beautyberries were poisonous when I was a kid, but that’s obviously not true since I’ve eaten plenty over the years.
However, it’s never been clear to me about edibility of the unripe beautyberries. Are the unripe beautyberries lethally toxic like the unripe lantana berries, or are the unripe beautyberries just extremely astringent like unripe persimmons? Or, is it somewhere in-between with the unripe beautyberries being both astringent and only mildly toxic? I really have no interest in eating the unripe beautyberries. I’m just looking for clarification. Thank you.


Green Deane March 25, 2013 at 07:14

Do not eat unripe beautyberries. That entire group of plants tend to have toxic unripe seeds.


Kurt July 7, 2013 at 20:49

Hello again. I’ve been getting tons of beautyberries ripening over the past few weeks. When I pick them or knock them off the bush, many of the berries still have the tiny green sepals attached to the ripe berry. Are the sepals of the beautyberry harmless when making jelly?


Michele September 19, 2013 at 22:34

My question too! I’ve been taking them off, but oh what a pain!


Christina Mendoza February 27, 2013 at 12:41

I’m so happy to have found this website – so much great information on native plants and their uses! On the subject of effective natural mosquito repellants: I’ve also been looking for one, and came across this study a few months ago: From the article: “Researchers report that nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip that gives the plant its characteristic odor, is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET…” The article also states that catnip can be found wild in most parts of the U.S. I haven’t tried catnip out myself yet, so I can’t vouch for it personally, but I plan to try! Thanks to everyone for sharing their questions and knowledge, and thanks for this fabulous website!


name September 13, 2012 at 07:56

if mosquitoes are that bad, drink a table spoon of apple cider viniger daily. soon your skin will smell like viniger, and no more mosquitoe bites! I once found a patch of beautyberry with lobed leaves, almost like large red maple(acer rubrum(?) with with teeth sightly larger than those of red mulberry(mora). any idea about what that might be? it was on a sandy hill, in almost full sun, surounded by pine and kudzu, in north alabama. I realy would like to grow this plant!


Beth November 15, 2011 at 13:10

Yea, I’m pretty good about identifying my plant life. I usually get in trouble going on hikes with people cuz I tend to stop and check things out, take samples, collect things, thus slowing down the hike.
Your point to check on local native resources is good, and I try to do so. The Bay Tree (Umbellaria californica) has been used to repel insects, but for some susceptible people, like me, its nickname, “Headache Tree” is more appropriate, as the crushed leaves cause an instant headache, and inhaling a handful can cause some to faint (I’ve seen it happen on a hike, knocked a guy out, just one big whiff.) There are others, like various Artemisias and White Sage, but I haven’t found a noticeable difference between applying them–and mosquitoes…well, I just guess our mosquitoes appreciate ‘fine cuisine’, dining on herb-seasoned humans…
Thanks for the tips, though!


Robert M. November 14, 2011 at 21:41

Make that Death Camas.


Robert M. November 14, 2011 at 21:36

As the warnings have stated in some sources, do not confuse Wild Onion with Death Camus as they may look similar. Onion has odor, Death Camus doesn’t. Don’t want you to get Zigadenus or Death Camus poisoning if you happen to eat one.


Robert M. November 14, 2011 at 21:16

If I were you Beth, I would dig into the local Native American Indian and pioneer methods of California for combating skeeters naturally. They would have been in a position to know what works there. Try to find some literature on it. Western sources. Some western survival books might also help. I was reading a western survival source “Outdoor Survival Skills” by Larry Dean Olsen (considered the father of the primitive skills movement) that says that the mashed leaves of wild onion, Onion, Wild Garlic, Nodding Onion; Allium rubbed on the arms and neck are an effective insect repellent but also warns it is a very effective people repellent. Page 110. Again best of luck.


Robert M. November 14, 2011 at 18:23

Well Beth, the point I was trying to make about the Dog Fennel above is that there is a definite difference between having it on and not. I don’t get bit nearly as much as if I did not have it. The Native Seminole Indians have been around long enough to know what works and what doesn’t. It is not total protection though so you have to keep that in mind. You may not have this variety out in CA. There are other natural skeeter fighting methods mentioned in Tillery’s book used by both the Seminoles and the pioneers but they may turn your nose up at most of them. lol

I have not had a problem with the effectiveness of DEET and I have used full strength 100%. The stuff that will kill skeeters that are foolish enough to ignore the stuff and try to bite anyway. This does happen with mangrove skeeters along the coast. It probably is not the best thing for skin that is for sure but it had to have been good enough for the GIs in Vietnam. Most DEET nowadays is only about 30 or 40% strength as it has been said that more does not improve protection. I understand you not wanting to use DEET though. Florida has a big skeeter problem in more ways than one and it has been jokingly suggested that the skeeter be made the state bird.

The Neem oil costs about $8.99 per ounce at the local health food store here. They do not carry larger quantities (1 cup above) and I am not paying that price. Might as well get a bottle of DEET. Its cheaper. I don’t have the luxury of carrying it with me usually so I need a good natural repellent. I will stick with Dog Fennel until a better natural repellent comes along. Best of luck.


Green Deane November 14, 2011 at 18:27

When I first came to Florida if a mosquito bothered you all you had to do was step out into the sun and the mosquito would go away. But then one was imported that flew in the sun and life has been miserable since…


Audrey August 24, 2014 at 18:16

I think it took two. :)


jeremy May 8, 2012 at 08:03

As for the cost of Neem at health stores, I am in Landscaping and use Neem oil for pest and fungal problems with plants. I get a container that resembles a motor oil bottle for about $17. And the directions call for something like a Tablespoon per gallon of water for plant use. I will sometimes take the bottle and turn it upside down on my thumb and use that to spread around my ankles and again up on arms and neck and ears. It works well. I live in Georgia, and I use paw paw leaves crushed and rubbed for repellent. Also hickory leaves and sassafras leaves for beddin. g. Helps deter chiggers. Hope this helps.


Beth November 14, 2011 at 11:30

Sorry for not being clear. I live in California. I am gleaning a lot from this incredible website as many items covered are found here, also, growing wild, in cultivated areas, or found in some of the local nurseries (that employ people that know their plants, unlike some of the big box Home Depot scarily clueless wonders).
I don’t do DEET even if I’m driven to the point of insanity but the monsters (and believe me CA mosquitoes are HUGE, smacking one that just tanked up is VERY messy.) Had some government issue DEET. Unlike most of the bottles you find in the stores, they had a serious warning on them: “Do not get on plastics. Melts plastics.” (They were in specially formulated plastic-like bottles that weren’t meltable.) And we’re supposed to believe it’s safe and HEALTHY to rub DEET all over as a mosquito repellent?????
So I’m looking for a viable homemade alternative. Will try Fred’s remedy up top–when I get some Beautyberry plants grown next year. A local company, sells Callicarpa americana seeds and a bunch of other useful ones. I think we have an abandoned wild bee tree up the hill also that the black bears got into but left some comb fragments for wax…at least they left most of the tree intact…


Robert M. November 13, 2011 at 14:44

LOL I was just looking at the USDA geographical map and it says we don’t have any in our county. Well……..we do….and lots of it.


Green Deane November 13, 2011 at 14:47

Those USDA maps can be so wrong… and when you write to them about it all you get in return is a ration of royal attitude.


Robert M. November 13, 2011 at 14:34

[quote=”Green Deane”]No, it does not have to be processed but apparently it is more effective if it is…[/quote]

Yeah, Deane. Just that I am always looking for something to use for a “better” natural repellent. Either as is or processed by what is also natural at hand in the woods. Can’t very well go to the store when I’m in the woods unless I bring it with me and that kind of defeats the purpose. Might as well get a bottle of DEET. I am not about to raid a bee hive for wax so maybe some kind of leaf wax? Not too many Indian Neem trees here abouts either but maybe some other evergreen might work?

[quote=”Beth”]I was wondering about the idea of using dog fennel as a repellent. The stuff we have growing here called dog fennel smells so bad it sure repels PEOPLE. How come it works for you?[/quote]

This is it. The long stringy leaf stuff.

It does indeed have a strong odor. But it is not obnoxious. I did not say it works 100% effective. It does help keep most skeeters away temporarily. I just take a handful of the stringy leaves and rub them between my hands with a little water, spit, whatever and smear it on about once every hour just like the Seminoles do. Put it on a fire for smudge fire like the Seminoles do. Use it for a soft springy bedding to repel insects and critters like the Seminoles do. It does not deter gnats though. Its better than mud or nothing. Pick up a copy of Reid F. Tillery’s “Surviving the Wilds of Florida.” Good practical book by the trained former US Army Medic/S&R and made specifically for Florida survival.

[quote=”Beth”]I’m a serious mosquito magnet.[/quote]

Same here. Little tormenters. lol


Beth November 12, 2011 at 19:38

I was wondering about the idea of using dog fennel as a repellent. The stuff we have growing here called dog fennel smells so bad it sure repels PEOPLE. How come it works for you? I can guarantee it doesn’t work with mosquitoes as while I’d be busy wrestling with uprooting the stuff, they’d take advantage of the situation and come in for a fill-up!
However, this shows the importance of using Latin names rather than just relying on a common name. The plant referred to above is not the stinkbomb we have out here. Our dog fennel is Anthemis cotula and looks similar to my nice smelling chamomile plants. (DON’T confuse it with chamomile FYI…makes a nasty tea….) It also is supposed to be an insect repeller (due to its smell 😛 ), but well, why smell abominable if (in my experience) it doesn’t work? I’ve had better luck repelling skeeters by smearing myself with the lemon balm that happily reseeds itself all over my garden area. (Yea, and then had people ask me why I’m using lemon furniture polish as a perfume…)
I’ve got to get some beautyberry growing, though. I’m a serious mosquito magnet. Wonder if it’d work as a ‘Beautyberry Balm’ combination…


PHamm54 August 3, 2014 at 12:20

Hey, just a thought. R us taking any “B” vitamins? Most of us need it for stress & B 6 (or B2) is good to give ur body natural repellent properties


Robert M. November 12, 2011 at 12:18

So Beautyberry leaf juice has to be processed for insect repellent and oil and wax ingredients added. No wonder it hasn’t worked for me “as is” in the woods. I have used Beautyberry leaf juice smeared on and frankly Dog Fennel leaf juice has worked better for me. If it doesn’t work for me as is or very little processing with what is in the woods, its worthless to me for repellent unless I make it at home first. I will stick with smeared on Dog Fennel if I don’t have anything else. But thanks for the bug juice recipe.


Green Deane November 12, 2011 at 14:58

No, it does not have to be processed but apparently it is more effective if it is…


fred zimmermann October 17, 2011 at 10:14

the jelly is awesome but i really love the beautyberry for its insect repellant properties. after learning about this from a green deane class and being an avid forager myself i decided to use the beautyberry as a bug repellant so it wouldnt slow down my summer foraging (florida summer mosquitos can be horrible). i pretty much chopped up a plant(leaves and stems) and boiled it in a pot and let it cool and strained the brown liquid into my blender about 1 1/2 cups. in a seperate pot i warmed some organic neem oil(1 cup) with 1 ounce of beeswax until melted. then you turn the blender on and pour in the oil mixture very slowly and it becomes a cream. i have to say hands down the best insect repellant ever! because its a creme on july/august days one aplication is all u need for the entire day even when your sweating :)
thank you green deane!!


Linda Frank October 16, 2011 at 13:51

I live in Maryland and my beautyberry bush looks more like japonica than americana. Have you found out if jelly would be okay to make from that?


Green Deane October 16, 2011 at 14:46

Callicarpa japonica is an ornamental where as the C. americana is found in the wilds. The USDA says C. japonica has only escaped cultivation in South Carolina. Also the Japonica’s berries are on one to two inch stems away from the branch, the C. american has berries that wrap around the main branch. Look at Google images for both and you can see the different. I will, however add a C. japonica picture to my web page. Thanks.


Thierry October 16, 2011 at 08:59

I made this jelly yesterday and it was wonderful! My husband agreed it is now one of his favorites. Thank you for sharing this recipe with us. I did harvest a few seeds to plant in our yard. I would rather grow a few bushes here to make enough seeds for both the wildlife and us instead of harvesting it out of the wild.


Will October 14, 2011 at 14:40

Hi Green Dean!

Uploaded a video on my site included a link back to you as you were the inspiration for my wild food find!



tash October 10, 2011 at 11:38

Hello, I like the recipe but how much head space and how long is it processed for? thank you!


Green Deane October 10, 2011 at 12:54

I left very little head space and followed a standard jelly making recipe for time. I am sorry to not be more technical than that. I’m just a woodsy bachelor.


Carlee October 8, 2011 at 20:49

Our beautyberries are DELICIOUS! We tried them today after watching your wonderful youtube video. However, our beautyberries look more like Callicarpa japonica than Callicarpa americana. We have one Callicarpa dichotoma whose berries do not have a delightful flavor. All three of us ate a few Callicarpa berries today. If they have no ill effect on our system, we’ll eat a few more. Sincerely, they are sweet! My two-year-old, Lauren, likes them better than Hackberries and Hackberries taste like candy :-) With 140 varieties of Callicarpa is it possible there is an americana variety with smaller leaves? If you think we should stop eating these sweet berries, please let me know! Thank you!


Green Deane October 9, 2011 at 02:40

The USDA — not always a reliable source — says Callicarpa japonica is only naturalized in North Carolina (at least in the US.) It has much smaller leaves than the C. americana. I have not read of the C. japonica berries being edible, though a tea is made from the leaves. I also have not heard of a tea for consumption being made from the C. americana but it does have edible berries when ripe.


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