This section is from the book "An Illustrated Flora Of The Northern United States, Canada And The British Possessions Vol2", by Nathaniel Lord Britton, Addison Brown. Also available from Amazon: An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 Volume Set..
Herbs (some tropical species shrubs or trees) with alternate entire mostly exstipulate leaves, and perfect regular polygamous or monoecious usually racemose flowers. Calyx 4-5-parted or of 4 or 5 distinct sepals, its segments or sepals imbricated in the bud. Petals wanting. Stamens as many as the calyx-segments or sepals and alternate with them, or more numerous, hypogynous; filaments subulate or filiform, distinct or united at the base; anthers 2-celled, the sacs longitudinally dehiscent, often nearly separated. Ovary superior, several-celled in most of the genera; ovules solitary in the cavities, amphitropous. Styles as many as the carpels, short or none; stigmas linear or filiform. Fruit a berry in the following genus, capsular or samaroid in some others. Endosperm mealy or fleshy.
About 22 genera and no species, mostly in the tropics.
I. PHYTOLACCA L. Sp. Pl. 41. 1753.
Tall perennial herbs (some tropical species woody), with ample petioled exstipulate leaves, and small flowers in terminal racemes, which by the further growth of the stem become opposite the leaves. Pedicels bracted at the base and often 1-3 bracted above Calyx of 4 or 5 persistent rounded sepals. Stamens 5-30, inserted at the base of the calyx; anthers mostly oblong. Ovary subglobose, composed of 5-15 distinct or somewhat united carpels. Fruit a depressed-globose 5-15-celled juicy, fleshy berry. Seeds I in each cavity, erect, corn pressed; embryo annular in the mealy endosperm. [Name Greek and French, referring to the crimson juice of the berries.]
About 24 species, the following typical one of eastern North America, the others tropical.
Phytolacca americana L. Sp. Pl. 41. 1753. Phytolacca decandra L. Sp. Pl. Ed. 2, 631. 1762.
A glabrous strong-smelling succulent erect branching herb, 4°-12° tall, the root perennial, large, poisonous, the stem stout, its pith divided into disks separated by lens-shaped cavities. Leaves oblong-lanceolate or ovate-lanceolate, pinnately veined, acute or acuminate at both ends, 8'-12' long; petioles 1/2'-4' long; racemes peduncled, 2'-8' long; pedicels divergent, 2"-6" long, each with a subulate-lanceolate bractlet at its base and usually 2 similar ones above; flowers perfect; calyx white, 2"-3" broad, its sepals suborbicular, or oval; stamens 10, slightly shorter than the sepals; ovary green, 10-celled; styles recurved; berry dark purple, 5"-6" in diameter, 3"-4" high, its 10 carpels conspicuous when dry.
In various situations, Maine and Ontario to Minnesota, Arkansas, Florida and Mexico. Bermuda. Sometimes a troublesome weed. Naturalized in Europe. Young shoots eaten like asparagus. June-Sept. Berries ripe Aug.-Oct. Inkberry. Redweed. Red-ink plant. Pocan-bush. Coakum. Cancer-jalap. American nightshade. Pokeweed.