Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Northeast Wetland Flora
Field Office Guide to Plant Species
Phytolacca americana L.
- Family: Pokeweed (Phytolaccaceae)
- Flowering: July-October
- Field Marks: This coarse, hairless herb is characterized by its reddish purple stems (at least by summer), its racemes of white flowers with 5 sepals and 0 petals, and its purple berries.
- Habitat: Disturbed soil, thickets, rich woods.
- Habit: Coarse perennial herb with thickened roots and an unpleasant odor.
- Stems: Upright, stout, branched, reddish at maturity, smooth, up to 10 feet tall.
- Leaves: Alternate, simple, ovate to oblong, wavy-edged but not toothed, smooth, up to 1 foot long.
- Flowers: Many in racemes, the racemes borne opposite some of the leaves, each raceme up to 8 inches long; flowers 1/4-1/3 inch across, on spreading stalks.
- Sepals: 5, free from each other, rounded at the tip, white or less commonly pinkish, up to 1/6 inch long.
- Petals: 0.
- Stamens: 10.
- Pistils: Ovary consisting of 5-12 ovaries united in a ring.
- Fruits: Berries spherical, juicy, dark purple, up to 3/8 inch in diameter; seeds poisonous.
- Notes: The roots and seeds of this species are poisonous when eaten, as are the mature leaves and stems. The very young leaves, however, may be eaten as greens. The fruits are relished by many species of songbirds.
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