Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pokeweed for Weedy Wednesday

It's been a few weeks since I last mentioned a notable weed but I can tell you that doesn't mean the weeds haven't been growing!  Ragweed and Johnson Grass are coming up in force with the warm weather and so is the weed I'm about to talk about today - pokeweed!  Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a very prolific weed in wild areas of the landscape and it won't take you long to realize why.

Pokeweed grows tall. I've seen it exceed 6 feet tall in some places.  It produces bunches of berries that the mockingbirds love.  It is because of the mockingbirds that the berries are so prevalent in our garden.  We have a family of mockingbirds devour the berries and drop them off in various areas of their territory AKA our yard and garden!  A word of advice - DO NOT park underneath power lines when pokeweed berries are on the plants - unless you want a purple car.

Pokeweed Flower Buds

Pokeweed is one of many types of poisonous plants and should not be eaten.  Birds are immune to the poisonous berries but all parts of the plant are poisonous.  People have processed the leaves through boiling water multiple times to make what is known as poke sallet (poke salad) but it is a dangerous meal and should not be eaten!

If you have small children (as I do) I highly recommend removing pokeweed from any area where children have access.  The dangling bunches of berries could easily be mistaken by children as something yummy to eat when it couldn't be further from the truth!

4 comments :

  1. There is a variegated pokeweed that Nan Ondra intentionally grows in her garden and I'm considering it, too! :-)

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  2. I was wondering what that was in my garden. Now I know!

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  3. I always find it interesting that people insist on pokeweed being so poisonous. I know the berries and stems should be avoided no matter what. But, I've eaten the leaves all my life. You just have to be aware that the young early spring leaves are the only ones to eat, and the water has to be leached off about three times. But it tastes just like spinach and I love it. It isn't poisonous, just slightly toxic if not gathered and cooked properly....meaning diarrhea will ensue. Many very poor mountain and country people (during the Depression especially) depended on poke sallet in the spring to "strengthen the blood." I imagine it contains much the same nutrients as spinach.

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  4. Yes I agree, after cooking the leaves thoroughly pokeweed is edible. It may have medicinal uses too. But unfortunately many agriculture departments of universities falsely describe it as a very poisonous plant that needs to be eliminated. It is quite possible that they do not want general public to know about this beneficial plant.

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