Pokeweed

Phytolacca americana

Family Phytolaccaceae


Notable Features
Leaves: Leaves symmetrical, toothless*, ovate*, and 3-6 inches (7-16 centimeters) in length.
Stems: Stems a reddish green and very smooth.
Fruit/ Flowers: Green-white flowers with five petal-like sepals* appear June through October and give rise to a drooping infructesence* of dark, purple-black, glossy berries. Berries ripen in late autumn and are attached to dark red stalks.
Size/ Shape: A large and weedy non-woody plant, 4-10 feet (1-3 meters). Found in waste places, roadsides, and near cultivated fields.

Location on Campus

(click for map)

An abundant plant on campus, Pokeweed can be found most easily in the undergrowth on either side of the road between the back of the library and C-Lot in the Brandeis Wetland.

Uses
The young shoots*, under 6 inches, of pokeweed can be boiled in at least two changes of water for 20-30 minutes and eaten as asparagus. The tender leafy tips can also be eaten and prepared as a cooked green. Also, young stems can be peeled, boiled for fifteen minutes in several changes of water, and pickeled in hot vinegar.

WARNING: Mature stems, roots, seeds, and anything tinged in red are dangerously poisionous.


Except where specifically noted, all text, photographs, and drawings copyright Chris Bersbach and Lisa Leombruni 2002. No part of this page may be reproduced without the express permission of the authors.