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Monday - June 25, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Shrubs
Title: Pests on American Beautyberry from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Something is eating the leaves of my American Beautyberry shrubs. One is almost stripped of leaves on the upper branches. I have looked and can't see any insects or caterpillars. I have also looked online and can't find information regarding any particular pests that eat this foliage. I do not have a deer problem. Do you know what this could be?


When we searched for pests or diseases for this plant, virtually every website on Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) assured us it was without pests or diseases, You might read this very complete article from the USDA NCRS on the plant, which does admit that it is sometimes victim to some wilts. From that article:

"Pests and Potential Problems
Some of the diseases which affect this genus include leaf spots (Atractilina callicarpae) and black mold (Meliola cookeana)"

It's good that you stated you had no deer problem, because that was our first thought, so we will have to dig a little deeper.

About all we can do is make a couple suggestions on maintenance of the area. This sounds like you have a nocturnal visitor, if you are finding holes and bare branches, with no evidence of insect visitation. We have had trouble in the past in Central Texas with slugs and snails, and some of those little beasts can climb a long way and eat a whole bunch of foliage. In the past couple of years, with heat, little rain and water shortages, there were not as many opportunities for the snails to survive, but the situation has changed a little this year. Please read this Integrated Pest Management article on Snails and Slugs.

Since this plant blooms from May to July, if the higher branches that you say have been eaten clean have no blooms on them, we would probably just trim off the leafless branches. Then, you could clean up the floor of the garden bed where the plants are growing to remove any potential lurking places for the snails. Note the instructions on watering in the article above. Another possibility is to make a trip out to the garden with a flashlight and see if you see any of the creepie crawlies on the loose. If you do, again, take the suggestions from the IPM article for prevention.

We are sorry we are coming up with nothing more definite, but it will probably be up to you to be the detective. The beautyberry is well known for attracting birds and butterflies. Your plant may already be sheltering some very small butterfly larvae or caterpillars. If you haven't been checking the plant frequently, one generation of larvae may have already come and gone, after first denuding those easily accessed higher leaves.

We really hate it when all our research tells us that a plant has no significant pests and diseases and something is obviously eating it.


From the Image Gallery

American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

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