When does this bloom?
Where does this bloom?
6, 74.7, 151, 239.9, 323, 376.9
Pokeweed has a large white taproot, green or red stems, and large, simple leaves. White flowers are followed by purple to almost black berries, which are a good food source for songbirds such as Northern Cardinal, Brown Thrasher, and Northern Mockingbird.
Plant Type: Perennial herbaceous plant which can reach a height of 10 feet, but is usually under four feet . The stem is often red as the plant matures. Central stem type, with one or more stalks. Plant dies back to roots each winter.
- Leaves: The leaves are alternate with coarse texture with moderate porosity. Leaves can reach nine inches in length. Each leaf is entire. Leaves are medium green and smooth with an unpleasant odor.
- Flowers: The flowers have 5 regular parts with upright stamens and are up to 0.2 inches wide. They have white petal-like sepals without true petals, on white pedicles and peduncles in an upright or drooping raceme, which darken as the plant fruits. Blooms first appear in early summer and continue into early fall.
- Fruit: A shiny dark purple berry held in racemous clusters on pink pedicles with a pink peduncle. Pedicles without berries have a distinctive rounded five part calyx. Berries are pomes, round with a flat indented top and bottom. Immature berries are green, turning white and then blackish purple.
- Root: Thick central taproot which grows deep and spreads horizontally. Rapid growth. Tan cortex, white pulp, moderate number of rootlets. Transversely cut root slices show concentric rings. No nitrogen fixation ability.
Pokeweed poisonings were common in eastern North America during the 19th century, especially from the use of tinctures as antirheumatic preparations and from ingestion of berries and roots that were mistaken for parsnip, Jerusalem artichoke, or horseradish. Deaths are currently uncommon, although there are cases of emesis and catharsis, but at least one death of a child who consumed crushed seeds in a juice has occurred.
The toxic components of the plant are saponins based on the triterepene genins phytolaccagenin, jaligonic acid, phytolaccagenic acid (phytolaccinic acid), esculentic acid, and pokeberrygenin. These include phytolaccosides A, B, D, E, and G, and phytolaccasaponins B, E, and G. Phytolaccigenin causes hemagglutination.
Although the seeds within the berries are highly toxic, the berries are often cooked into a jelly or pie, and seeds are strained out or pass through unless bitten. Cooking is believed to inactivate toxins in the berries by some and others attribute toxicity to the seeds within the berries. The leaves of young plants are sometimes collected as a spring green potherb and eaten after repeated blanchings. Shoots are also blanched with several changes of water and eaten as a substitute for asparagus.
Poke berries make a beautiful purple dye, however it is short lived and is washed out easily. Will last little more than a month away from sunlight on baskets.
A patent has also been filed to use poke toxins to control zebra mussels.