Phytolacca americana or American Pokeweed is known by many names, Phytolacca decandra, American Nightshade, Skoke, Virginian Pokeweed, Garget, Inkberry, Pokeberry, Poke Salad, Pokeweed, CoakumRed Weed, Virginian Poke, Red Ink Plant, Polk Salad, Poke Root, Pigeon Berry, Dyer’s Grapes, Crowberry, Crimson Berry Plant, Cokan, Cancer Jalap, or Chon Grass.
It is a poisonous, herbaceous perennial that is native to North America or the United States. It belongs to the Phytolaccaeae family of plants. It is an upright plant that can grow up to 2.5m or 8ft. It has oval-shaped medium green leaves that turn a tinge of reddish-purple in autumn. The stems could be green or reddish-purple.
The flowers are creamy-white with a slight hint of green, they appear in racemes. Phytolacca americana flowering season is in mid-summer to autumn after which it produces purplish-black berries. Birds love the berries, such mockingbird or cardinal among others. Though Phytolacca americana is poisonous to humans and pets and livestock. Some of the young shoots in spring are edible when it is boiled but later it all turns poisonous, the young shoots were used in Appalachian food. It gets more toxic as it matures. The berries are toxic whether they are ripe or not.
Plant Phytolacca americana in moist and fertile soil in the sun or partial shade. Propagate by seed in spring. It is generally pest-free but prone to viruses. Phytolacca americana is used in Chinese medicine and called chuíxù shānglù 垂序商陸.