The American Beauty Rose with its deep pink petals and pleasing fragrance seems to be the ideal for which the concept of beauty was created. The name suggests that this rose is native to American soil, even though the truth is that the first of its kind was cultivated in France under a different name altogether. The ‘American Beauty Rose’ is so much a part of our language that the 1999 film American Beauty only needed to use the first part of the phrase to conjure up images that would be fulfilled with thousands of blushing petals as the story unfolded.
There is another plant that carries the name American Beauty. The American Beautyberry is a native to Florida more formally known as callicarpa americana. This American Beauty comprises a series of gangly sticks that serve as branches; outsized, ungainly leaves of simple design; and flowers that grow in tiny clusters sometimes too small to be noticeable. This is not the American Beauty we’re accustomed to picturing. It is an awkward plant with uninspired flowers. But, in the fall, the American Beautyberry earns its name with a striking display of distinctive, glowing, purple-violet berries clustered around the branches.
A year ago, we had one American Beautyberry on the property. Now, I’m encouraging more than half a dozen plants that seeded themselves, and I will welcome more. Yes, it can be dull in winter, and unnoticeable in the spring and summer. But, in its autumn splendor it has earned the name American Beauty. More than that, this hardy plant is a true native, it is ‘American.’ The fruits are a delight to the eye and they attract birds who love the berries. It is at home in a harsh and withering climate, it has a will to survive and even to thrive, as it gives pleasure to some and nurtures others. And, even though it seems outrageous to think of a lithe young woman rolling in a bed of purple berries — this is the plant I would choose to call the true American Beauty.