Phytolacca americana 


Names and Myths

Phytolacca From Greek for phyto plant and the French color Lake a dark red.6

americana of America.

Pokeweed from Virginia Indian Pokan which was generic for any red juiced plant used as a stain or dye.1

Natural history / Folklore

Indians used pokeweed poultices for cancers, the itch, and rheumatism.1 The root is especially poisonous. Poke poisoning causes stomach cramps, convulsions and death.19 Berries and roots are a source of medical drugs, all parts of the plant contain alkaloids (saponis). Cooked berries can be used in pies, but raw berries have been shown to be poisonous to humans. Young shoots can be eaten if boiled in two changes of water.21 Once the shoots are tinged with red they should not be eaten having matured and developed the toxins the plant is also known for.57 One common name Poke sallet reflects the use of the young shoots as greens. They contain large amounts of vitamin C and Iron. One antidote for poke poisoning was to drink lots of vinegar and eat a pound of lard.22


May – October Clusters of small white flowers develop into dark purple berries.  Can grow from 4 to 10 feet in height, large clusters of deep purple berries. Dry areas or disturbed sites.

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