Do you know pokeweed?

Do you know pokeweed?
this is pokeweed

This is a picture of pokeweed. It is a native plant, with dripping purple-black berries in the fall.

Birds are quite fond of the berries, but according to the USDA–the berries are toxic for people!

The berries can be used as a fabric dye, or even ink. It is an intense, red-purple color. Here is a recipe from the New York Times if you’d like to try and make your own.

This is from Wikipedia–“Phytolacca americana, also known as American pokeweed, pokeweed, poke sallet, dragonberries is a poisonous, herbaceous perennial plant in the pokeweed family Phytolaccaceae. It has simple leaves on green to red or purplish stems and a large white taproot.”

You can find pokeweed seeds for sale online, or maybe you can find the plants growing wild in a backyard. They can grow really tall–over 6 feet, in the right conditions. I’m thinking the conditions were right this summer, because there are plants towering over 5-foot me!

The young leaves of pokeweed in the spring are edible, if prepared carefully. It’s a popular dish in the rural south. There’s even a song about it. Maybe you remember this song by Tony Joe White–Polk Salad Annie—

Want to know about other wild weeds? You can read more here.

Filed under: history, nature, seasons


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  • So, that's what's in the bird plop on my windshield.

  • Thanks for stopping by, Jack. Yes, that's it! What a mess they are making, now...

  • I'm glad it wasn't around the playgrounds at my elementary school recess times, when some of us would start acting out "Little House on the Prairie" stories. I think some included cooking! Glad we didn't get all that realistic.

  • Thanks for stopping by, Margaret Serious. You could have written letters in poke berry ink. It's a beautiful color!

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    I'm glad you like the color. Of course, ink from it would have been on the side of my left hand all day!

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    Oh yes! That berry juice was all over my hands, too. It does wash off with soap and water, though. Thanks again.

  • Great post, WG. To add an historical note, pokeweed sprigs were worn on the caps of James K. Polk supporters, during his campaign for president in 1844.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I was wondering about the different spellings. What a great history lesson! Thank you, AW.

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