Phytolacca americana – Indian Pokeweed

Very close to Bench Three is the intriguing Phytolacca americana or the Indian Pokeweed.  At this time of the year it has very pretty and delicate pink spires of flowers which seem incongruous to its meaty leaves and stems.  They will eventually become spikes of juicy black berries which while the flesh is edible, the seeds are toxic.  This is a perfect way to get distributed over a wide area, birds and animals eat the delicious fruit, the poisonous/indigestible seed remains intact during digestion and is evacuated with a healthy helping of manure to continue the life cycle.  This is a common way for plants to propagate themselves used from apple to yew and back again.

North American Indians produced a red dye from the fruit which they used for painting their horses and other decoration.  They also used it as a body purge to rid the body of bad spirits amongst other things.  The root can be processed to be used as a soap substitute as it is high in saponins.  I may try the dye and the soap but unlikely to try out the purging, although some may say I need it.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Phytolacca americana – Indian Pokeweed

  1. Bosswoman

    Yet another plant that I’m not sure I have ever noticed – I clearly go roun d with my eyes (or brain) closed. Shame on me.

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