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Phytolacca americana

Common Names: Pokeweed,
Phytolacca americana
Phytolacca americana

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Tracheophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Phytolaccaceae
Genus: Phytolacca
Species: Phytolacca americana

Conservation Status

Identifying Features

Pokeweeds have large, rounded leaves growing on red or purplish stalks. The flowers grow in tiny clusters of green-white petal-like sepals, followed by berries that are green to purple-black clusters hanging on the stalks of the plant.

Habitat & Range

Pokeweeds can be found along wood edges and on the sides of trail paths, towering at around 8-10 feet tall. They are native to eastern North America, the Midwest, the South, and scattered around parts in the far West.


As a “weed”, the plant can self-seed and spread easily throughout an area. Interestingly, birds are unaffected by the poison produced in the berries and help spread the seeds to isolated areas.

All parts of the pokeweed are poisonous to humans and other mammalians, particularly in the roots and the stem. The plant grows in toxicity as it matures.

Life Cycle

Pokeweeds emerge in the spring and bloom during July-September. The berries turn purple-black as the plant matures. During the winter, above-ground growth (i.e., stems and leaves) die off but the plant will resprout again in the spring from its underground taproot.

Featured image by James Dake.


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