Ontario Weeds: Pokeweed
Excerpt from Publication 505, Ontario Weeds, Order this publication
Table of Contents
Name: Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana
Leaves: Leaves alternate (1 per node), the lower quite large, up to 30-50cm (12-20in.) long and about 1/3 as wide, upper leaves shorter and smaller and with shorter leafstalks; all leaves usually dark green above, lighter green to pinkish-green below and with prominent pinkish veins.
Flowers & Fruit: Flowers greenish-white to pinkish in slender racemes at the ends of the main stem and branches. There are no petals, 5 petal-like sepals, 5 to 30 stamens but usually only 10, and a ring of 10 pistils in the centre; at maturity these form a flat, ring- ring-shaped, juicy, purplish berry with 4 to 10 (usually about 6) sections, each with 1 large hard seed. The whole plant, but especially the ripe berries, has an intense purplish-red juice that was used for dyeing. Flowers from June to October.
Habitat: Pokeweed is a native plant which occurs in meadows, edges of woods and waste areas in the southwestern part of southern Ontario; elsewhere in the province it may persist in old gardens after having been cultivated for the young leafy sprouts which are used as a green vegetable if properly cooked and re-cooked, with the cooking water discarded 3 times.
Similar Species: The soft, smooth, fleshy texture of leaves and young stems and the absence of an ocrea at the base of each leaf distinguish Pokeweed from Lamb's-quarters, Pigweeds and the Docks, respectively, with which it might be confused. The flat, juicy, 4 - -10-seeded purplish berries arranged in a spike at the ends of smooth stems and branches distinguish it from wild blackberries and raspberries.
Caution: The plant is poisonous to livestock.
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