A fruit bearing perennial TOXIC WEED that has many unique uses dating back hundreds of years!!
One day a client asked if I would stop by his property to look at a few small projects he needed taken care of. So during my property visit I noticed a very striking plant. The client indicated that he did not plant it and asked me if I knew what it was. I just shook my head and said I could not identify the plant off hand. The plant had grown quite nicely in a small bed space just behind his house to a height of about 5′ tall, had beautiful deep red-purple colored stems and awesome long strands of berries. I took a few pictures and performed a Google Image search later that evening. It turned out that the mysterious plant was called Pokeweed and has a very long detailed history.
I was amazed that this perennial “weed” had grown to be such a beautiful mature plant.
What really interested me besides the very unique color and berries produced by Pokeweed was that all parts of the plant itself are considered toxic and not recommended for human, pet and/or livestock consumption. However, pokeweed berries and it’s dried roots have been used in herbal remedies, for red food coloring and even to make ink and dye.
Pokeweed Facts and Folklore:
The common name ‘pokeweed’ originates from the Native American word for ‘blood’, referring to the red dye that can be made from the fruit (however, the color is difficult to fix). Some of the other common names, such as ‘inkberry’ and ‘inkweed’, refer to this use.
Juice from pokeweed berries was once used to ‘improve’ the color of cheap red wine.
Supporters of President James Polk wore pokeweed twigs instead of campaign buttons during the 1845 campaign.
Medical researchers have isolated a protein (pokeweed antiviral protein or PAP) from pokeweed that is being used to try to inhibit the replication of the HIV virus in human cells.
Roots, leaves and berries of common pokeweed were used medicinally by Native Americans and early settlers to treat a variety of conditions from hemorrhoids to headaches.
The young shoots and leaves of pokeweed have been eaten as greens (‘poke sallet’), boiled with the water changed several times prior to consumption. The taste is described as similar to that of asparagus or spinach. Berries have been used to make pie. However, ingestion of any part of common pokeweed cannot be recommended
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