Thrusting through the moist earth of the April woods comes the Indian pokeweed. The shoots are pale green and succulent, in clumps, in groups, sometimes by dozens where there used to be an old woods cabin or a clearing now given back to the woods. The Indian poke comes when the morels are growing, when the violets are in bloom and mayapples open their while flowers. It is at this time in its growth that the pale, juicy stems and crinkled, tender leaves of poke are gathered and cooked as greens. Those who gather Indian poke, however, must carefully cut off the shoots above the ground, not pull them up. because the big ruddy root is poisonous and must never be included in the dish <>!' greens.
Phytolacca americana L.
June - September Waste places. woods.
The pokeweed continues to grow. If the shoots are gathered, new ones within a few days will make their appearance. The stalks branch, the stems grow stout and tall, until each plant make- a broadly spreading bush with thin, green, tapered leave- upon it. Then in June there appear racemes of small, greenish-white flowers which are followed quickly by racemes of small, flat green buttons of berries. Slowly, through the summer, these grow to be as large a- pea.- and by October have turned dark purple-black and are tilled with purple juice. Now the -talk- of the Indian poke have turned a bright magenta, as if they had been dipped in dye, and to the pokeweed patches come the robins, blackbirds, and bluebirds to eat the juicy berries. The robins have -tamed bosoms and beaks, and sit about waiting tor the berries to digest that more may he eaten. Then comes hard frost. The last of the berries are gone, the thin leaves, always so frost-sensitive, wilt away, but remain tor a large part of the winter, pale and dry and thin as paper, on the bleached, dried bushes of the poke. These skeletons stand all winter and fall down when new shoots push them cut of the way.