Poke Weed – Characteristics

Q: I need help in identifing a plant that grows in numerious locations around the property. Description: It is a purple stemmed plant, and has bright green leaves when the plant is young. The leaves darken a little as it matures and groupings of berries that turn dark purple also appear on the plant. It’s easy to pull up because it grows from a carrot-like root. I’ve also seen it grow as tall as 6 feet. I’ve been told that it is poisonous but I’ve pulled it out of the ground without gloves and never had a reaction.

A: Theresa Schrum replies: “From your description, this sound like Poke Weed (Phytolacca americana), a very common weedy native plant. For the most part, it’s poisonous, but only when eaten, not touched. However, the young leaves are edible if prepared properly.

The berries which mature from green to dark red/purple are loved by birds and in that sense it’s a good food for wildlife. Other than that, it spreads quickly and is considered by most to be a weed.

This web site has more information:
Phytolacca americana

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