Phytolacca americana

Pokeweed

Botanical description: Phytolacca americana celebrates the seasons in flare, with colorful drama. Pokeweed is a beautiful, shrub-like herbaceous plant native to eastern North America. Pokeweed has a fondness for disturbance and is readily adaptable to a variety of site conditions, especially in rich gravelly soils, and around abandoned lots and fields—wherever birds have dropped them. Its smooth round green stems change to a gleaming magenta as autumn approaches and racemes of white flowers in the spring develop seeds that transition into dark purple, glossy berries. In the winter, the plant dies back completely to its large tap-root, from which it will re-sprout the following spring. Phytolacca americana is frequented by bees and wasps that seek its nectar, but its berries are especially popular with songbirds such as the Eastern Bluebird, Catbird, Mourning Dove, Robin, Starling and several others. Most botanists consider all parts of the plant to be highly toxic, but young leaves have been picked and boiled as an asparagus substitute, known colloquially as poke salad. The dark berries are used in the preparation of a magenta ink, which fades to brown with age. Ironically, studies have revealed that the very poisonous pokeweed has the capacity to hyper-accumulate other toxins such as Cadmium and Manganese.

Indexed

10

Place of Origin

Eastern North America