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American Pokeweed, Pokeberry, Inkberry, Poke Sallet - Phytolacca americana


Family: Phytolaccaceae - Pokeweed family Genus Common Name: Pokeweed Native Status: Native
Phytolacca americana - American Pokeweed, Pokeberry, Inkberry, Poke Sallet . Famously edible leaves for Poke Sallet (Poke Salad), but careful - other plant parts, including the mature leaves, are poisonous. The berries also stain, and can be used to make an ink. While there are many rumors on the Internet that the original U.S. constitution was written in pokeberry ink, and I have not yet found any truly authoritative source of information, the best information I can find implies that this is not the case; the constitution was written with iron-gall ink. However, more likely are the reports that many letters written home during the U.S. Civil War were indeed written with pokeberry ink.

American Pokeweed can be weedy (Twitter friend @kevinsonger even attributes - jokingly, I presume - spontaneous generation to the plant) and is listed officially as such by several authoritative sources, such as the Southern Weed Science Society.

Herbalist Guido Mase of the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism tweeted this about the plant: "Root toxic, low-dose lymphatic, cancer / infection support. Berry juice=solar panel." The solar panel reference is about the juice being used in an experimental solar panel to produce electricity, as reported at newsobserver.com.

Found in:
AL, AR, AZ, CA, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV

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Phytolacca americana

Distribution of Phytolacca americana in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 25 Apr 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Walker County, Ga Date: 2009-June-12Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Unusual blossoms of Pokeweed
Phytolacca americana

Site: Walker County, GA Date: 2009-July-24Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D60
1/200f/3.2 ISO200
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
90mm (135 equiv)
Juice of the berries of Pokeweed were reportedly used by American pioneers as ink. As children we always used them to pelt our siblings.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Phytolacca americana

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer