Thursday, October 14, 2010

100 Species Challenge #75

Notice the purple stems

Specimen #75 Pokeweed
Phytolacca americana L. 

AKA any of the following (I'm sure there are other aliases)

  • American pokeweed
  • common pokeweed
  • inkberry
  • pigeonberry
  • pokeberry
  • pokeweed

photo by me at a delightful county park

Note the berries on racemes
I thought I wrote about this plant in the past years, but upon searching the archives, I find that I have no posts about pokeweed. So here it is!

Pokeweed might be better called pokeberry, because each berry has a dent in it, as if someone poked it. (Wildman Steve Brill words it better at this webpage.) 

The naturalist who led our nature hike (that's her in the yellow shirt) rated this plant as "OK." As in, she didn't feel strongly enough against its presence to pull it out, but didn't feel quite right about it in a wooded area. As a native plant, it can be invasive, weedy, or welcome.

When I read the following, (source: Alternative Nature Online Herbal): " A beautiful red ink and a dye are obtained from the fruit. The rootstock is rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute[.]," I remember seeing photos of kids painting and writing with pokeberry juice.

I am very conservative when it comes to toxic plants. Just take a look at this webpage -- it's enough to scare me away from taking any part of it home. 

I found this plant last week with our HSAP. The weather has been great, and the kids LOVED playing in the creek. I call this area of fallen trees "nature's playground."


~Maria said...

Great timing with this post. We have been researching this after finding a large new pokeberry along the drive. I am in the process of cutting it down due to the toxic factor. Although my kids understand the importance of not eating the berries, they are very tempting and too accessible for visitors who may not know better.

juliecache said...

yay for my first caption with a photo.

Bromeliad said...

I used to play with pokeberry as a kid - ink, ink bomb, etc.