Tag Archives: ngrams

French mulberry, or dwarf mulberry, becomes beautyberry

Due to discussion on facebook with Rihard Sexton after the previous post, I dug around a bit, and discovered that beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is also known as dwarf mulberry, French mulberry, and Spanish mulberry, sow berry, and sour berry. That last is especially a misnomer, because its berries are not sour, they taste like flowers. And it turns out that beautyberry was mentioned in books before 1800, it was just mentioned as dwarf mulberry:

Further, William Bartram did mention it in his Travels of 1791, as French mulberry. Curiously, even though Google books does have Bartram’s book, ngrams doesn’t seem to show French mulberry for that date, but does show American mulberry. Even more curious, William Bartram’s father, John Bartram, corresponded with Linnaeus, the founder of modern botanical terminology.

The currently most popular name is beautyberry, which turns out to be related to the scientific genus name, Callicarpa: Greek kalli means beautiful, and Karpos means fruit.

The plant has all sorts of uses: Continue reading

Callicarpa vs. Beautyberry

Google’s latest new thing is which show frequency ngrams, of any given word (or more than one) in books from 1600 to the present. Beware, you can end up there for hours!

Anyway, comparing the common name beautyberry to the scientific name Callicarpa americana, it seems that the “common” name is much newer, at least in books.

Beautyberry is a piney woods bush that fruits as small violet berries that make tasty jars of jelly: