It's the Plants, Darling

Landscaping with pokeweed


Yes. The time has come. I’m embarrassed by my unruly pokeweed, now that I see this … pokeweed standard?

Posted by on August 17, 2008 at 12:00 pm, in the category It's the Plants, Darling.
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20 responses to “Landscaping with pokeweed”

  1. Gloria says:

    Your not going to cut it down before the berries ripen are you?
    Cardinals love those dark purple treats and will come back for more until all are eaten.
    Pokeweed does not pose an invasive problen here in Chicago as the winters usually are to harsh.Rarely do I find find it growing but when I do it is left to grow even though it grows so large…Gloria

  2. weeder1 says:

    Here in my warm Northern California yard, this stuff has spread like heat rash! It IS pretty but not when it comes up EVERYWHERE. I haven’t noticed any of the local birds eating the berries though they surely must? (No, they are too busy emptying all my bird feeders!) Our winters are much too mild to make pokeweed get pokey. Dang!

  3. DJ Monet says:

    Folks should be careful with pokeweed- it is very toxic and can absorb through the skin. Of course, the shoots, looking like asparagus, can be eaten and is a southern food. But you got to get it before it leafs out.

    In addition to birds loving it, the giant leopard moth digs it as well.

    If you have young kids make sure to let them know not to play with the berries!

  4. Pam J. says:

    Well I think it’s beautiful and would leave it alone.

  5. Gloria says:

    Or did you mean this is growing elsewhere and puts your pokeweed to shame?

  6. Elizabeth you have one unruly pokeweed? I have a unruly pokeweed forest. If anyone would like to adopt and remove one of my pokeweeds and train it into a standard for their garden they are more than welcome.

    I was horrified when I learned these are perennials.

  7. eliz says:

    Yes, Gloria, this is not my pokeweed. Mine is not nearly so nice. But it gives me an idea.

  8. Layanee says:

    It so matches the fence.

  9. Poke Lore:
    A pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) plant has grown to nearly twenty feet tall where it leans on an oak tree. The official descriptions of this plant peg the height as up to 10 feet. I guess they didn’t consider our long growing season here in Florida or that it might lean on a tree for support. It grows, blooms, and produces its dark purple berries until a frost– usually late December or early January. The top of the plant will die back after the first frost, but the root survives and sends up new shoots in the spring. Each year the plant gets larger.

    I’ve seen various species of birds eating the berries, and purple deposits polka dot the cement driveway under trees where those birds perch near this plant. It’s a desirable weed for your wildlife garden.

    I’ve done my share of foraging over the years, but I’ve never been tempted by pokeweed, because you need to catch it early in the season before the poisons build up in the stem so you can cut it off and eat it like asparagus. You also can eat the greens, but you must boil them twice and throw out the first water to get rid of the toxins–this has been called poke sallet, an old English term for cooked greens. I always thought people were saying, “poke salad,” but that didn’t make any sense because you’d never eat the uncooked greens. The root and the seeds are the most toxic parts of the plant.

    Native Americans took full advantage of pokeweed, using the plant medicinally and employing the berries and stems for dye and for painting their horses. Supporters for James Polk, our eleventh president, reportedly wore pokeweed leaves around their necks. The common name is sometimes spelled, “Polk.”

  10. Kim says:

    Well, I think that particular pokeweed is quite pretty – the red stems with the crown of green leaves are quite fetching. If I had one that looked like that in my garden, I’l probably let it stay.

  11. DJ Monet says:

    To add to Ginny’s Pokeweed Folklore- the Constitution (at least one of the drafts) is written in fermented pokeweed ink- the bush is sometimes called inkberry.

  12. Bob Vaiden says:

    I always leave a few Pokeberries growing…

    They are a striking plant! But I DO keep their numbers limited:)

  13. queenie says:

    glad to finally know what this thing is called.

    I will still rip it out every chance I get.


  14. Lisa says:

    I am happy to finally find out what this plant is. It comes up all over my yard, especially where my non-gardener neighbors have allowed one to come up on their side of the fence line and drop seeds into my bed. Seriously theirs is 6+ feet.

  15. Eric says:

    You’re on to something here…topiary weeds as an untapped genre of specialized gardening. Are the people at Taunton Press paying attention? *smirk* – But seriously, I think it looks cool and I vote for a stay of execution. – Eric

  16. mrtumnas says:

    I love this plant. I let it grow everywhere it decides to come up. They’ll get huge in the right spot. I’ve seen them as tall as 12 feet!

  17. John says:

    There is a wonderful variegated form of this common weed. In the fall when the crown is dripping with berries, the stems are glowing magenta and the leaves are splashes of gold and cream with squiggles of green – it is breathtaking. Not bad for a weed.

  18. Josh says:

    Yes, if you like the normal Pokeweed, you’ll love the variegated form! After two tries, I finally got it to survive an Iowa winter. It is about 4′ tall, now, and quite striking! Check it out!

  19. BobbyO says:

    I have a specimen at the head of my driveway that comes back year after year no matter what I do to it. Pull it out? Grows right back. Mow it down? Grows right back. Roundup? It dies back, and then regrows from the same root stock. You’ve gotta respect a plant that is that hardy. Too bad it’s toxic as all hell.

  20. kathye says:

    One of these showed up in my garden in Massachusetts. I thought it was fascinating and let it grow–to six or eight feet. The next year there were dozens, and they weren’t all that easy to pull up — so I’ve discouraged them since. Too bad!