Monday, October 01, 2007

Pokeweed

We have quite a bit of this plant in different areas of the property. It is a fast growing plant with red stalks, broad green leaves and, this Fall, large dark blue berries all over them. I was unsure what is was but was hoping that the beautiful looking berries would be edible. A quick internet search proved otherwise.

It turns out this is called Pokeweed. The Iowa Extention office says this on Pokeweed:
"The entire pokeweed plant contains a poisonous substance similar to saponin. The alkaloid phytolaccine also occurs in small amounts. Most authorities regard the plant as poisonous. Birds are apparently immune to this poison. Animals usually do not eat the plant because of its bitter taste. Humans have been poisoned by eating parts of the root, which is the most poisonous part of the plant. Children are often attracted by the bright crimson juice of the berries and can be poisoned by eating the berries. Indians used the juice for staining feathers, arrowshafts, and garments. Indians and early settlers used the root in poultices and certain drugs for skin diseases and rheumatism. If taken internally, pokeweed is a slow acting but a
violent emetic. Vomiting usually starts about 2 hours after the plant or parts of it have been eaten. Severe cases of poisoning result in purging, spasms, and sometimes convulsions. If death occurs, it is usually due to paralysis of the respiratory organs. Cases of animal or human poisoning should be handled by a veterinarian or a physician. Because of the danger of human poisoning, pokeweed should be eradicated when discovered. This is especially true if the plants are in hedges, gardens, and other areas adjacent to a home where children may be attracted by clusters of berries."
So, I guess I need to make the time to go out into the pasture and remove the weeds from there. We also have some closer to the house which I will remove. But there is quite a bit in the woods away from the animals and kids that I will leave for now for the birds over the winter.

2 comments:

Cat =^,^= said...

Pokeweed is hard to get rid of b/c since the birds like it they distribute the seeds (?) with their waste and so it grows up in odd places - I have been battling it for years in my little suburban homestead. I am visiting your blog via Robin H (I am a knitting fool also).
http://bonaircat.blogspot.com

Alexander said...

Pokeweed is VERY tough to eradicate, so why fight it? Native Americans introduced the first colonists to pokeweed, and it became a popular vegetable back in Europe. In the Spring, Poke Salet festivals are still held in the American South, and they love to eat it. There is a special way to prepare the young shoots in 2 changes of boiling water so it's safe to eat. The taste is a cross between asparagus and spinach. Side note: The berries were used to make the ink that penned the Declaration of Independance.