Hardiness: USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F) USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F) USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F) USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F) USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F) USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F) USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F) USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F) USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F) USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)
Sun Exposure: Full Sun Sun to Partial Shade
Danger: All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Soil pH requirements: 5.6 to 6.0 (acidic) 6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic) 6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
Patent Information: Non-patented
Propagation Methods: From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
Seed Collecting: Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds Ferment seeds before storing Wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored
On Apr 8, 2013, nomismom from Independence, MO wrote:
I would like to know more about the companion properties of pokeweed. Currant bushes are very susceptible to powdery mildew & similar maladies. I planted black currants several years ago, and the only plants I have left are growing in the shade of pokeweed plants. (They appear quite healthy!) I really want these bushes to grow & produce, and I'm afraid they won't survive unless I allow the pokeweeds to grow with them. Does pokeweed exude some substance like walnut trees do? If so, could the pokeweed affect the taste or toxicity of the currant berries. Can anyone tell me why my remaining currants are doing so well in proximity to pokeweed?
On Mar 15, 2013, ransom3 from Zephyrhills, FL wrote:
This is one of the most delicious tasting vegetables I have ever eaten. Try it, but first learn how to prepare it properly. This plant is a native of North American. It was here long before the Pilgrims, so how people can say it is invasive is beyond me.Seems we are the invaders. lol.
On Aug 18, 2012, tamahaokie from Stigler, OK wrote:
Polk weed grows wild in my area of Oklahoma.We cook the leaves when they are young,very good. My husband liked them scrambled with eggs. Leaves should not be eaten after the plant blooms. But the berries may be used as a medicne when the berries are ripe,just never eat the seed,they are what is toxic.The berries are good for fighting flu and for body aches and rheumatism.I have canned polk and even pickled the young stalks like okra,it is really good.There are all kinds of recipes online for polk.Try them you will be surprised.
On Jul 16, 2012, jennyby from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:
Many plants are poisonous WHEN PREPARED INCORRECTLY. Pokeweed plant is a native to our beautiful land - that means it naturally occurs without human help. Roundup, however, does not naturally occur without human help. If you are concerned about this plant being poisonous, I suggest you reconsider the chemicals you suggest to kill it. They're far worse than the plant! Plain boiling water will work even quicker than vinegar for killing any unwanted plant or weed. I read it, and tried it, and it's fabulous. The weeds, root and all, will be ready to come out within the hour, without birth defects or carcinogens, AMAZING, isn't it?! I myself enjoy the free bird food, and the show they put on eating it.
On Sep 21, 2011, GardenQuilts from Pocono Mountains, PA (Zone 6a) wrote:
This plant grows wild in wooded areas in the Poconos and throughout the Northeastern US. contact with it gives me a rash, so others with sensitive skin should use care. I pull it out of my garden beds every year - be forewarned, it forms a long tap root. There are plenty more pokeweed plants growing in the nearby wooded areas for the wildlife to enjoy.
I recently watched an episode of BBC Gardener's World with a garden tour of the American Ambassador's Residential Garden. One of the plants in the garden was Pokeweed! It looked beautiful in that garden, but those BBC Gardens always look incredible to me.
On Aug 27, 2011, luvprimitive from Evington, VA wrote:
I LOVE this plant(weed). Yes, they do reseed everywhere, but so do a bunch of other weeds and flowers. It's no worse then Sweet Annie or Russian Olive, both of which I tolerate for their fragrance. Pokeweed I love for their beauty. The older they get, the bigger and prettier they get. Those beautiful rasberry colored stems and purple berries, when the sun shines through them, are a sight to behold. I've got a huge one that I put a big pot of pink Mandevilla beside and it grows and twines itself through the Pokeberry all summer. Beautiful. The seedlings that come up in my grass I just keep mowed down. Others I just pull.
On May 30, 2011, plant_it from Valparaiso, IN wrote:
The pokeweed is a native plant from New England States to Minnesota and south to Florida and Texas. Pokeweed berries are an important food source for wild life. American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Gray Catbird, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Cardinal, Great-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, European Starling, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, Red Fox, Virginia Opossum, Raccoon, and White-footed Mouse all eat the berries. From what I've read, deer don't care for it much.
I also read that a possible cure for childhood leukemia may be found in the common pokeweed. Not too bad for a weed.
On Sep 22, 2010, Stalker from Woodbridge, VA wrote:
I use pokeberry to stain wood. It makes a very bright (light)red stain on most woods. I grow it in a large bed next to my driveway, at the moment but it does have a mind of its own and a strong will to spread. I rip out most of the young plants in spring so it doesn't take over the entire yard. Birds love it. Having it in my yard attracts lots of different birds.
The key to getting along with poke berry is you have to diligently weed in spring. Select a spot (or two) for two or three plants and let them stay. IT is a perennial so you can keep it in one spot and the plant will get a little bigger and healthier each year.
Bottom line is; It's very hardy and very invasive. Oh and it's poisonous.
Here in my neck of the woods, Harlan County, Ky, we actually have a festival in June of every year honoring this lowly (?) weed. It is called the POKE SALLET FESTIVAL complete with a small carnival, photography, arts & crafts displays, and believe it or not, a poke sallet cooking contest!!! You would be amazed at the creativity of the cooks around here as we have had everything from the traditional cooking of the greens to poke sallet lasagna!!
On Jun 11, 2010, MTVineman from Helena, MT (Zone 5a) wrote:
In my part of the US, this is an exotic introduction. It it not a pest here and doesn't make a nuisance of itself at all. In fact, I find it quite beautiful, but then I always find the good in almost all plants. Or I at least try. Actually, maybe I ought to take that back. Knapweed and Spurge and Dalmatian Toadflax are 3 plants that just make me insane. They are horrible weeds here and almost impossible to get rid of. But back to the Pokeberry. I do grow it here because it won't spread, the birds like the berries and so do I. For their beauty of course, not to eat! They sure do stain you if you get the juice on you. I see why Native Americans and early settlers used it as a dye plant. I first saw it on a trip to southern Missouri. It was growing all over in the creek bottoms and ditches of Greene and Lawrence counties in Missouri. I asked what that beautiful plant was and got laughed at! Well, I understand how the natives must feel about it but I did go steal some ripe berries and I have a few nice plants growing here as we speak. If I see any sign of spread, I'll pull it. I just noticed, almost all the plants in my gardens are poisonous. Wonder how I managed that? And there ARE lots of children in the neighborhood. Guess they'll figure out that my yard is not a good place to play! I'm kidding. Of course I will tell them and mark the poisonous plants. Which is almost all of them! Daphne berries, different Solanums, lot's of Datura, Morning Glories and I sure have a lot of weird mushrooms that pop up here and there all over. I kind of hope they are poisonous too. It will be my poisonous witch garden! Bwahahahahaha! I smell children!!!!! Now, now, I really am just kidding around. Haven't had any problems yet and don't plan to. I will enjoy the Pokeberries unless they become a pest. Then I'll find an organic alternative to Roundup or Sevin or any of that horrible crap! My friend got so sick from spraying Sevin a week or so ago. It was not pretty. Never again! I wish people would be more careful with that stuff. It's so toxic to everything. Not just the bad weeds and insects. Ick!
On May 14, 2010, lehua_mc from Portland, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:
I posted a picture of a bird planted pokeweed, in an early non-fruiting, small flowering stage primarily to assist in weed identification. I pulled it out of the garden on a recommendation from this website through the plant ID forum. I live in Portland, OR where it is on an Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) list of invasive species of special concern to the Multnomah and Sandy River Basin area. The fact that birds can eat the berries is one of the more damaging aspects of the plants, since they can then spread the plant anywhere, including deep, relatively native, forest sites. If you have this for sale or trade, be aware of the nuisance and invasive lists of the area you want to trade in. If you are reading for advice on the plant, please be aware that this is a national site, and what may be true of the plant in your area may not be true for another.
On Sep 1, 2009, vossner from Richmond, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:
All I can say is that I did not plant this, must have been a birdie gift. I pulled the one and only plant I had, remains to be seen if I'll see it again. Berries are pretty and I can see why birds would like this plant. In my garden, berries seem to mature in late summer.
On Apr 29, 2009, redpondranch from Seguin, TX wrote:
This plant appeared on our south central Texas property after we had the septic tank hole dug...I had never seen it before then. I really like it! It grows big and lush in just a few weeks in the spring, and the berries are spectacular. Poisonous? So what? So are a lot of other plants! Just don't let the kiddos eat the berries, and you're OK.
The young plants are easy to transplant, but forget about moving the big guys.
What I like most about this plant is that it's one of the few things in my garden that the deer don't appear to be at all interested in, and that makes it terrific in my book!
On Mar 31, 2009, raeingarden from Baltimore, MD wrote:
I used to play in this plant as a child and about 15 years ago I was clearing a garden and got covered with the sap. Next I was covered with a rash which my doctor diagnosed as poison sumac. He told me to avoid the plant as with allergies they only get worse. About three years later I gingerly removed the plant full grown from the side of the house and then through caution to the winds tearing out some invasive mint not realizing their were babypokeweed plants co mingled. Several hours later I was covered with the same rash and this time given serious medication pregnisone which my family said made me impossible to live with. Now if I spy a pokeweed in any stage my husband removes it asap. I hope I have some bizarre reaction as I agree it is not unpleasent to look at.
On Mar 21, 2009, eatmyplants from Comanche county, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:
As far as being poisonous, there are many common garden vegetables and most common flowers are on the USDA poisonous plants list. The tomato is considered a poisonous plant, also the potato. Heck, I even saw catfish on a poisonous fish list in the science building at Howard Payne University. Ok, regarding pokeweed, it's very common here but I've never seen it become invasive. I've found it on old abandoned farm properties along with pomegranates, onions and other plants that the old timers kept around because they ate them. The fresh, new tender leaves are excellent boiled greens if you boil and change the water twice. I've eaten them for years and have never become sick. I'll be gathering a batch soon. Yum.
On Dec 13, 2008, BLOSSOMBUDDY from (Zone 5a) wrote:
I have nothing good to say about this plant.
To kill it... use Roundup.
It is invasive, poisious, spread by bird and is a menace.
Pretty is as pretty does. But this plant can get huge.
My neighbor has it in their pasture with livestock....when they have no other vegitation to eat, the animals will ingest it. Then she wonders why she got sick animals...some people just have no clue. Some vets have no clue either.
If you grow it, be prepared to control it. And that is hard to do with a plant the birds love and they have immunity to. Perhaps pot it, but it has a tape root so that makes doing that difficult when the plant gets huge.
On Sep 10, 2008, tergail from Belleville, MI wrote:
I think this plant is beautiful. We moved into this house late last fall so we are now discovering all the plant life on our property. We have so many plants that seem to produce one kind of berry or another. But I fell in love with this one in the spring. The colors are fantastic. Where it is growing hides some unsightly views so thats a good thing. However...I do have small children so I do worry about it now. But we've done a good job of teaching them not to eat anything growing wild unless we tell them it's ok. And I always search out what it is before I let them. But again. I think this plant is beautiful.
On Jul 27, 2008, GreenLaPortian from La Porte, IN wrote:
Due to its invasive and poisonous qualities, I can see why this plant isn't terribly loved, but I can't help but be impressed with the amount of growth this plant "puts out" every year. It dies back to its roots every winter and comes back bigger the following season. I often wonder whether this plant might be a good candidate for ethanol production?!
On Dec 1, 2007, maccionoadha from Halifax, MA (Zone 6a) wrote:
You can eat the young shoots in Spring, but only before they get 10 to 12 inches tall and leaf out. You must boil the young shoots in several changes of water. DO NOT EAT RAW! The mature parts of the plant are toxic if eaten and can cause severe vomiting. Eating the berries can cause nausea and if eaten by children, can cause severe reactions. DO NOT EAT THE ROOTS! The root has a dangerous narcotic effect.
On Jul 26, 2007, PlantGirl1982 from Cedar Rapids, IA (Zone 5a) wrote:
Why would anyone want this plant? Are you all crazy who want to buy it. If you are crazy enough I will send you an armfull, it has come up in every bed I have created. Oh and by the way it is on the USDA Poisonous Plants list!
The berries, ripening in autumn and poisonous to humans, are very popular with migrating songbirds, especially robins, towhees, mockingbirds, mourning doves, catbirds, and bluebirds. The birds are very effective at converting the purple berries into purple splotches on the sidewalk. Sometimes the birds get drunk on overly ripe berries and don't seem to care where they leave their purple splotches.
The roots, berries, seeds, and mature stems and leaves of pokeweed are dangerously poisonous. Only the young shoots and developing leaves (before they take on their reddish hue) can be eaten, and only after boiling for 20-30 minutes in at least two changes of water. Be very careful not to get any of the root when picking the young shoots. Pokeweed should not be cultivated anywhere there is a chance that a person might try to eat the berries.
Pokeweed is an alternative host for several plant viruses that feeding insects can transmit to members of the Solanaceae, Liliaceae and Amaryllidaceae growing nearby.
On Jul 26, 2007, Cambium from Lamar, AR (Zone 7b) wrote:
While it may be considered true that the plant is poisonous, I've never heard of anyone dying from it. If a large amount is consumed, it could cause diarrhea & the fresh sap may be injurous to the eyes. I'm sure that the more mature the plant, the higher the toxins would be.
As previously said, the berries are highly favored by birds. It is by this fact alone, I'd keep the plants around. It seems that they tend to be an open canopy type plant so they could shade smaller plants under it.
It is known as a spring green from those who eat wildfoods. By my family's experience its young leaves & tips are very edible. We ate these delicious parts until it started blooming. By then we'd have other greens in the garden to enjoy. In the early spring, I used to snap off the entire 12" or so tall stalks to the ground, to barely steam them good then throw them into a skillet with a little oil to finish off the cooking. As the plant matured I'd pick only the tip of the stalks along with younger leaves & parboil them before eating like cooked greens (Spinach, Mustard, Kale, etc). My favorite was to cut the fresh young stems, roll them in flour, & fry them like Okra. Delicious!
On Jul 22, 2007, Blubird333 from Shawnee Mission, KS wrote:
This plant started growing in my backyard in Merriam, KS a few years ago. I let it go because of the beautiful berries that the birds love. It comes back faithfully every year. It spreads so well because I believe the birds deposit the seeds across the garden. If you weed it while it's very small and young, it's no problem to contain...once the plant is 5-6 feet high...its roots are huge. But once anyone sees the huge amount of beautiful cascading berries and watches the birds eat them...you will never want to be without this awesome plant in your garden.
On Apr 29, 2007, jamlabor from Pittsburgh, PA wrote:
I live in Pittsburgh and I have a double city lot in back. I've been building walls, steps, perennial beds, etc. to dolly up the yard as it was an abandoned jungle when I moved in. Anyhow, this pokeweed is making my life miserable...it's growing everywhere and as many have noted, it's impossible to eradicate. Has anyone had success removing this plant?
On Sep 2, 2006, Magpye from NW Qtr, AR (Zone 6a) wrote:
Pokeweed, Poke Salad (Phytolacca americana)
The small white flowers are in a tapering raceme. Purple to black berries with a staining juice are used as a food coloring and in dyes. The berries and seeds are eaten by song and game birds, while the plants are eaten by deer.
The stems are branching and purplish near the ends. The leaves of young plants (poke salad), are eaten by some people in the spring months. Grows well on disturbed ground, roadsides, ditch banks, lots, cut-over or burned woodlands.
On Jul 18, 2006, hotlanta from Lilburn, GA (Zone 8a) wrote:
This plant does grow wild in this area. It is very invasive, but it could be called interesting. The berries are intoxicating to birds. I have seen birds act strange shortly after eating them, but it does not take them long to recuperate. I have heard and read tales about the young (spring) shoots being cooked and eaten (poke salad), but I don't recommend it. I do have a small patch of these plants in my "natural area" just for the birds, because there is so much building going on here, there is less and less for them to eat.
On Apr 27, 2006, Maria2354 from Fernandina Beach, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:
I got this Pokeweed as a "freebee" in a wildflower seed mix packet from an online seed company. It was not listed on their website, but online research showed me that it is the American Pokeweed. I am glad to have in a flower pot, so hopefully it is contained. It has produced nice looking berries in winter, though.
On Jan 19, 2006, ravntorthe from Elkins, WV wrote:
The plant really does have a beautiful coloration and its root has been used for the production of soap (I'm not certain how this was done, I'll eventually know). Just for those of you who might want to plant it, use some sort of underground containment!
As has already been stated, they get BIG tap roots and wherever you cut (like comfrey) the little buggers will grow another stalk. If you do have some you are digging, note all the nice little nodes they have just waiting to produce more of themselves. I don't mean to sound bitter, I like the plant but I spent all last season trying to get two seperate plants in two very different areas of my yard to GO AWAY. I thought I had finally triumphed after I dug down about 2 1/2 feet and dug out the major portion of tap roots. Instead, I just got a whole mess of babies.
Just as a side note: Smothering them doesn't work either. The shoots will push whatever you are covering the ground with up, tear through it, etc. I finally just let the stupid plant have that square of the garden with the intention of removing the rock wall on that side and getting ALL of it out. But instead I moved (not due to the plant).
Beautiful, useful to animals, nuisance if they aren't where you want them in the first place. Ironically, this is going to be one of the first items I plant once I find out what is already growing at my new home.
On Sep 20, 2005, Breezymeadow from Culpeper, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:
I have to admit that even though it is a difficult-to-eradicate noxious weed, I too allow it to flourish on my property where appropriate due to its attributes as wild bird food. In fact, I currently have several plants right up against my deck that are around 12-foot tall & covered with berries. I've let them grow there because they are covered with birds as well.
Drawbacks? Late in the season the berries can ferment on the plant & actually "intoxicate" the birds, so if you do have these plants about & at the same time see a number of birds behaving strangely, this might be the cause. Another drawback is that birds feeding on the berries produce droppings that will stain wood (decks & outdoor furniture), as well as fabric if you hang your wash outdoors. And - as others have mentioned, it may be unwise to have this plant about if you have young children that may be tempted to eat the attractive fruit, as it is poisonous to humans.
When this plant first came up on my property, I thought it was pretty too, and let it set fruit. BEWARE. It is hugely invasive. It has invaded several of my flowerbeds and cannot be removed without digging out the huge fleshy root.
On Feb 10, 2005, Crimson from Clarksville, TN (Zone 6b) wrote:
The red color of the stems and the purple berries make a great color combination. A fast cover or hedge to screen a "bad" view or grown along a chainlink fence.... but once established you better like it since it is VERY hard to remove, you'd have to dig the HUGE tap roots out!
Pokeweed berries are highly attractive to robins, bluebirds and other fruit-eating birds during the winter (although they ignore it during the fall when the berries are ripening). Do not cut down the plant until the birds have removed all the berries, usually by mid-winter.
On Sep 2, 2002, woodspirit1 from Lake Toxaway, NC (Zone 7a) wrote:
Pokeweed tends to sprout on newly disturbed ground and on burned areas. In the south, a lot of people eat the greens; I certainly do. They are a little strong-flavored so I usually boil them awhile, pour the water off, and then start again with fresh water and seasonings. Cut them off to the ground when they are quite young and tender, before any berries appear, at about a foot tall or less. Several sprouts will come up where you made the cut and you get to recut them and have several intervals when you can get a "mess" for quite awhile. They are delicious. Just call me Poke Salet Annie!
I know you hear about them being poisonous and I supposed if you ate enough of the berries, that could be true. But my mother-in-law used to color her apple jelly with the juice from the berries.
I think the roots are even more poisonous. A late old friend of mine used to dig the roots and slice them and fry them up in bacon drippings and feed them to his dogs to worm them. It worked! His dogs were always very healthy with very shiny coats.
Poke is a perennial, but unreliable. Apparently the soil has to be just right (poor). I have never tried to propagate them.
On Jul 29, 2001, eltel from Macclesfield, CHESHIRE (Zone 8a) wrote:
CAUTION. It is strongly recommended that this plant is not put in any garden where young children (who may be tempted to eat the berries) have access. They are poisonous. In addition, be careful when taking cuttings, as the roots of most varieties are highly toxic.
This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:
, (2 reports) Hamilton, Alabama Salem, Alabama Trinity, Alabama Deer, Arkansas Bay Point, California Placerville, California Redding, California San Lorenzo, California Bridgeport, Connecticut Bartow, Florida Boca Raton, Florida Cheval, Florida Combee Settlement, Florida Fernandina Beach, Florida Hampton, Florida Keystone Heights, Florida Merritt Island, Florida Niceville, Florida Orange Springs, Florida Plant City, Florida South Daytona, Florida Spring Hill, Florida Tampa, Florida Titusville, Florida Zephyrhills, Florida Braselton, Georgia Brunswick, Georgia Lilburn, Georgia Martinez, Georgia North Decatur, Georgia Peachtree City, Georgia Cary, Illinois Mackinaw, Illinois Monmouth, Illinois Westchester, Illinois Gary, Indiana Macy, Indiana South Haven, Indiana Cedar Rapids, Iowa (2 reports) Ely, Iowa Toddville, Iowa Derby, Kansas Merriam, Kansas Wichita, Kansas Willowbrook, Kansas Benton, Kentucky Custer, Kentucky Ewing, Kentucky Hebron, Kentucky Louisville, Kentucky Mc Dowell, Kentucky Pollock, Louisiana Brookeville, Maryland Cresaptown-bel Air, Maryland Ellicott City, Maryland Greater Upper Marlboro, Maryland Loch Lynn Heights, Maryland North Laurel, Maryland Rockville, Maryland Valley Lee, Maryland Boston, Massachusetts Halifax, Massachusetts Mashpee, Massachusetts Belleville, Michigan Dearborn Heights, Michigan Detroit, Michigan Livonia, Michigan Ludington, Michigan Rogers City, Michigan South Lyon, Michigan Webberville, Michigan Sauk Centre, Minnesota Olive Branch, Mississippi Ridgeland, Mississippi Saucier, Mississippi Waynesboro, Mississippi Belton, Missouri Cole Camp, Missouri Independence, Missouri Springfield, Missouri Helena, Montana Beatrice, Nebraska Burlington, New Jersey Middlesex, New Jersey Deposit, New York Pittsford, New York Webster, New York Yonkers, New York Chapel Hill, North Carolina Durham, North Carolina Greensboro, North Carolina Henderson, North Carolina High Point, North Carolina Madison, North Carolina Wilsons Mills, North Carolina Bucyrus, Ohio Canal Fulton, Ohio Columbus, Ohio Fruit Hill, Ohio Brush Creek, Oklahoma Hulbert, Oklahoma Stigler, Oklahoma Clackamas, Oregon Portland, Oregon (2 reports) Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania Newtown Square, Pennsylvania Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Port Matilda, Pennsylvania Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania Walnutport, Pennsylvania Greer, South Carolina Irwin, South Carolina Summerville, South Carolina Clarksville, Tennessee Cokercreek, Tennessee Crossville, Tennessee Lenoir City, Tennessee Murfreesboro, Tennessee Walterhill, Tennessee Westmoreland, Tennessee Briarcliff, Texas De Leon, Texas Denton, Texas Dike, Texas Garland, Texas Grey Forest, Texas Lake Dallas, Texas Mont Belvieu, Texas New Berlin, Texas San Antonio, Texas (2 reports) Victoria, Texas Bluefield, Virginia Evington, Virginia Merrimac, Virginia (2 reports) Woodbridge, Virginia Kalama, Washington Elkins, West Virginia Deforest, Wisconsin