Friday, November 09, 2007

Pokeberry (Phytolacca)

10 years ago Mom and I took some of this plant to a nursery to find out what it was.
The nurseryman said "Its a nightshade, get rid of it."
Well, Mom and I both thought it was just too pretty what with those red stems and purply black berries so we left the plant.

It is now all over the property but these pictures are from the origional site.
I forgot to see if Phytolacca is indeed a nightshade but I do know that all parts of the plant are toxic to mammals.

Some folks in the southern parts of the United States still do eat "poke salad" but I think I'll just feast with my eyes, thank you very much.

The birds eat the berries but are unaffected by the toxins because the small seeds have very hard outer shells which remain intact in their digestive system and are eliminated intact. This explains why there are now plants all over the property. The
root systems are ginormous so lots of new growth rises up from them too.

The most interesting fact unearthed about this stuff is that the Declaration of
Independence of the United States was written in fermented pokeberry juice! (The plant is sometimes called inkberry) Many letters written during the Civil War were written in this "ink".

Native Americans used the dye to paint designs on their horses.

The fall color of the leaves is exactly as you see it here in the last two pictures. I don't have Photoshop (and wouldn't know how to use it if I did) and I didn't tweak the color in Picasa.

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Connie said...

Wow! It is worth keeping around just for the fall color.

Angie said...

We too, have a lot of pokeweed. I have been trying to eradicate it for a couple of years now. If it wasn't for the fact that all parts of it is poisonous and it is sooooo invasive, I too would keep some around.