Young shoots - cooked. An asparagus substitute, they are delicious. The shoots are sometimes blanched before using, or forced in cellars to provide an early crop. The tender clear inner portion of the stem can be rolled in cornmeal and fried. Although cultivated on a small scale in N. America for its shoots, caution is advised, see notes above. A nutritional analysis is available. Fruit - cooked and used in pies. Poisonous raw, causing vomiting and diarrhoea. Even the cooked fruits should be viewed with caution. The fruit is a berry about 12mm in diameter.A red dye is obtained from the fruit and used as a food colouring.
The rootstock is rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute. Cut the root into small pieces and simmer it in boiling water to obtain the soap.The plant is currently (1980) being evaluated for its snail-killing properties.
All parts of the plant are toxic, an excess causing diarrhoea and vomiting. This remedy should be used with caution and preferably under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women. The root is alterative, anodyne, anti-inflammatory, cathartic, expectorant, hypnotic, narcotic and purgative. The dried root is used as an anodyne and anti-inflammatory. The root is taken internally in the treatment of auto-immune diseases (especially rheumatoid arthritis), tonsillitis, mumps, glandular fever and other complaints involving swollen glands, chronic catarrh, bronchitis etc. The fresh root is used as a poultice on bruises, rheumatic pains etc, whilst a wash made from the roots is applied to swellings and sprains. The root is best harvested in the autumn and can be dried for later use. The fruit has a similar but milder action to the roots.The juice is used in the treatment of cancer, haemorrhoids and tremors. A poultice made from the fruit is applied to sore breasts. A tea made from the fruit is used in the treatment of rheumatism, dysentery etc. The plant has an unusually high potassium content and the ashes, which contain over 45% caustic potash, have been used as a salve for ulcers and cancerous growths. The leaves are cathartic, emetic and expectorant.A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh root. Its main action is on the throat, breast, muscular tissues and the joints.
If you have sufficient seed, it might be worthwhile trying an outdoor sowing in a seed bed in early spring. Grow the plants on in the seedbed for their first year and plant them out the following spring.Division in March or October. Use a sharp spade or knife to divide the rootstock, making sure that each section has at least one growth bud. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.
Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Phytolacca americana. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.
Whilst the dormant plant is hardy in much of Britain, the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. A very ornamental plant, it often self sows when in a suitable position. Cultivated as a dye plant and on a small scale for its edible young shoots, there is at least one named form. 'White Stem' has white stems and the berries yield a golden-peach dye instead of purple. It is not yet known (1992) if it will breed true from seed. This plant is an alternative host to a number of viral diseases that affect members of the Amaryllidaceae, Liliaceae (broad view, including plants recently  moved into separate families) and Solanaceae.Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits.
Problems, pests & diseases
Associations & Interactions
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Polycultures & Guilds
There are no polycultures listed which include Phytolacca americana.
This table shows all the data stored for this plant.
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