This section is from the book "A Manual Of Weeds", by Ada E. Georgia. Also available from Amazon: A Manual Of Weeds.
Native. Perennial. Propagates by seeds.
Time of bloom: July to September.
Seed-time: Late August to November.
Range: Maine and Ontario to Minnesota, southward to Florida and Texas.
Habitat: Fence rows, thickets, and waste ground.
A very handsome plant, which has been carried to Europe and naturalized as an ornament in gardens. But when growing uncared for it is a dangerous weed; the root is very poisonous and the berries when eaten cause excessive nausea but are not emetic. Both root and berries are used in medicine, the drug market price for the root being two to five cents a pound and for the berries five cents a pound; the latter being carefully dried on the stems, when fully ripe, and the root collected in the fall when well stored with plant substance, cut in transverse slices, and dried.
Fig. 81. - Pokeweed (Phytolacca decandra). X 1/6.
Stems four to ten feet tall, stout, smooth, usually red or purplish. Leaves oblong lance-shaped, rather thick, smooth, deep green, entire, pointed at both ends, six inches to a foot long, with short petioles; they have an unpleasant odor when bruised. Flowers in terminal racemes, which by the further growth of the plant become lateral and opposite the leaves; calyx white, with five rounded sepals; stamens and styles ten. Fruit in drooping clusters, each blossom producing a juicy, dark purple berry, with ten carpels, each containing a single seed. (Fig. 81.)
Grub out wholly, selling root and fruit to pay for the trouble if possible; or cut off below the crown and apply dry salt, carbolic acid or kerosene to the cut surface of the root.