Phytolacca americana

Phytolaccaceae - Pokeweed Family

Pokeweed is a very common plant found in North America. It is native to the southeastern coast and can be found all over the United States. This plant grows in many different environments and dwells in rich soil. It is a berry-bearing plant. The berries usually turn from green to pink to a deep purple while the stalk is a sharp red. The berries are a favorite among songbirds. Pokeweed usually grows to about ten feet at the maximum and has many large leaves that range between 3 and five inches. The flowers of this plant usually bloom between June and September. They a whitish color and have a green center.1
Pokeweed has a very long, poisonous taproot. It is a perennial plant. Native Americans used this plant for many things. The taproot was used as a laxative and emetic.2 The leaves of this plant can actually be consumed. After they are boiled they can be eaten. This is the only part of the plant that can be consumed by humans. The flavor is compable to spinach and asparagus. One should be very cautious when interfering with this plant because any consumption of the berries or plant in general is very poisonous.1 The pokeweed seedlings usually emerge from mid-spring to early summer. The birds that eat the berries of this plant are most likely responsible for dispersing the seed. Pokeweed seeds can remain in the soil for as long as 40 years!3 One very interesting fact is that pokeweed, because of its chemicals, is being used for cancer research and possible an anti-AIDS drug.1

References and Useful Websites:
1 Alternative Nature Online Herbal
2Cooperative Extension Service - University of Arkansas
3Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide - Ohio State University

This page was prepared by Brooks Terry, BIO 102, Fall 2011

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