Weed of the Week #4 – Pokeberry (Phytolacca americana: Phytolaccaceae)

Pokeberry is a native perennial that can become quite the invasive weed if it finds the right conditions. It is easiest to identify when it is flowering or in fruit. The stems of the flowers turn a bright pink while the flowers turn from white to purple when they become berries. Although the berries may look delicious they are actually very poisonous as is the rest of the plant if not prepared correctly. The young shoots can be eaten as greens if they have not turned pink yet. The berries can be cooked and then made into a pie. I searched for a recipe but couldn’t find any reliable ones online. Let me know if you find any. The plant has also been used as a dye and it has been rumored that the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence with ink from its berries. This useful weed was also taken as a medicine by Native Americans. They used its tea to cure arthritis.

Where It’s From: Most of the United States, except the Rocky Mountains

Where It’s Found: Open woods, damp thickets, clearings, roadsides.

Where To Find It: It can be found in most public parks that have been neglected and sometimes in open lots or next to abandoned buildings

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