Other Common Names: Scoke, Poison Poke, Pigeon-berry, Garget.

The roots and fruit of this weed are used in medicine for skin diseases and rheumatism. In some parts of the country its young shoots are highly esteemed as a substitute for Asparagus. The roots are carefully removed in such cases on account of their bitter taste. On boiling, the drug, which is present in all parts of the plant, is extracted, and the greens are quite wholesome provided the first water in which they are boiled is poured off.

The root has been mistaken for that of the Parsnip, Artichoke, or Horse Radish, and human poisoning has resulted mostly from such mistakes, or from overdoses when used as medicine. In a few cases the death of children has been attributed to the eating of the fruit and seeds. Where the plant grows abundantly, the young shoots have caused the death of cattle.

Phytolaccin, an acrid alkaloid, has been isolated from Pokeweed, as have also the poison phytolaccotoxin, phy-tolaccic acid, saponin and a glucoside. The weed produces vomiting, its action in this regard being very slow. The vomiting begins only after about two hours and is accompanied by violent retching. Severe purging is also produced, along with spasms, and sometimes convulsions. Death, when it occurs, is caused by paralysis of the respiratory organs, due to the narcotic action of the plant poison.

Pokeweed is a smooth, coarse perennial, growing from four to nine feet high, and found on low, rich ground in Ontario and the states to the southward. Its root, the most poisonous part, is large and dull yellow in colour. In old plants each branch of the root may be two or three inches thick. The leaves are large, smooth, petioled and pointed at both ends. The venation is pinnate, and each main vein forms a loop near the edge of the leaf, uniting it with its neighbour. Bright green in summer, the leaves turn red in autumn. The inconspicuous flowers are borne in terminal and lateral racemes. They have no petals, but the sepals are white. The green ovary soon becomes prominent. In autumn the calyx turns bright red and the berries become deep purple, with red juice. The seeds, arranged in a circle in the berry, are black and polished.

Fig. 32.   Pokeweed

Fig. 32. - Pokeweed - Phytolacca decandra.

Pink Family. Caryophyllaceae.

Bouncing Bet, Saponaria officinalis L., also known as Soapwort, is poisonous, the whole plant and especially the root containing saponin, the effects of which are explained in the section dealing with Purple Cockle (p. 96). The plant is found in old gardens and has often escaped from them to roadsides and other waste places. It is a coarse perennial with showy bunches of white to pinkish flowers.