Pokeweed: Another Fall Berry

Pokeweed is a large perennial wildflower that emerges in the spring, but for most of the season is not among my regular stopping places during my walks in Eliza Howell Park. In the Fall, however, it definitely gets my attention.

It is the combination of the red stalks/stems and the bright fruit clusters that calls it to my attention.

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Pokeweed can grow quite tall (the one below is at least 8 feet high) and looks like a bush. The color in the branches and in the flower/seed clusters becomes more bright as the season progresses.

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The flowers are small and, while attractive, do not seem to appear very often among wildflower photos.

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The fruit is the biggest attraction for berry watchers like me. The flower cluster becomes a cluster of berries – green to red-ish to dark purple.

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Pokeweed is a native plant of North America, often found at the edges of tree lines and in disturbed ground. It is spread by seeds. (Range map is from USDA.)

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All parts of the plans (roots, shoots, leaves, fruit) are poisonous, although it has historically been used as a food at times (after very careful preparation) and as a medicine. Many birds and some mammals eat the berries and do not suffer the same ill effects as humans do from eating the raw berries. (Pokeweed often grows in yards and there have been cases of children getting ill after sampling the berries.)

Each berry has about 10 seeds.

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By the end of October, the seed clusters are largely devoid of berries.

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There are many Fall berries in Eliza Howell Park, mostly growing on vines or on shrubs. Pokeweed is not nearly so common here as Bittersweet or Honeysuckle, but it is definitely one worth noting.

 

 

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