This article has been marked as incomplete and in need of reformatting. Please help us to improve it.

Practical Plants is a community wiki. You can edit this page to improve the quality of the information it contains. To learn how, please read the editing guide.


Toxic parts

The leaves are poisonous[1][2][3][4]. They are said to be safe to eat when young, the toxins developing as the plants grow older. Another report says that the seeds and root are poisonous. The plant sap can cause dermatitis in sensitive people[5]. The plant contains substances that cause cell division and can damage chromosomes. These substances can be absorbed through any abrasions in the skin, potentially causing serious blood aberratins, and so it is strongly recommended that the people wear gloves when handling the plant[5][6].

Edible uses


Leaves - they must be cooked and even then it is best to change the water once[7][8][9][10][4]. They are used like spinach[11]. Only the young leaves should be used since they become toxic with age[12]. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Young shoots - cooked[13][10][2][12]. An asparagus substitute[11], they are delicious[14]. The shoots are sometimes blanched before using, or forced in cellars to provide an early crop[11]. The tender clear inner portion of the stem can be rolled in cornmeal and fried[11]. Although cultivated on a small scale in N. America for its shoots, caution is advised, see notes above. A nutritional analysis is available[15]. Fruit - cooked and used in pies[14][16]. Poisonous raw, causing vomiting and diarrhoea. Even the cooked fruits should be viewed with caution. The fruit is a berry about 12mm in diameter[17].

A red dye is obtained from the fruit and used as a food colouring[11].

Unknown part



Material uses

A red ink and a dye are obtained from the fruit[18][19][20][21][12][14][22]. A beautiful colour, though it is not very permanent[9]. It makes a good body paint, washing off easily when no longer required, though the slightly toxic nature of the berries should be remembered[K].

The rootstock is rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute[22]. 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[16].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Pokeweed has a long history of medicinal use, being employed traditionally in the treatment of diseases related to a compromised immune system. The plant has an interesting chemistry and it is currently (1995) being investigated as a potential anti-AIDS drug[23]. It contains potent anti-inflammatory agents, antiviral proteins and substances that affect cell division[23]. These compounds are toxic to many disease-causing organisms, including the water snails that cause schistosomiasis[23].

All parts of the plant are toxic, an excess causing diarrhoea and vomiting[23]. This remedy should be used with caution and preferably under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women[23]. The root is alterative, anodyne, anti-inflammatory, cathartic, expectorant, hypnotic, narcotic and purgative[9][1][18][24][25][26][23]. The dried root is used as an anodyne and anti-inflammatory[16]. 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[23]. 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[5]. The root is best harvested in the autumn and can be dried for later use[23]. The fruit has a similar but milder action to the roots[23].The juice is used in the treatment of cancer, haemorrhoids and tremors[16]. A poultice made from the fruit is applied to sore breasts[5]. A tea made from the fruit is used in the treatment of rheumatism, dysentery etc[5]. 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[27]. The leaves are cathartic, emetic and expectorant[5].

A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh root[27]. Its main action is on the throat, breast, muscular tissues and the joints[27].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - sow autumn or spring in a cold frame[17]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

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.


An easily grown plant, succeeding in most soils[7], though preferring a moisture retentive soil in full sun or partial shade[28][17]. Plants can be grown in quite coarse grass, which can be cut annually in the autumn[29]. Succeeds in an open woodland garden[17], growing well under trees[13].

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[7], it often self sows when in a suitable position[17]. Cultivated as a dye plant[19] 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[11]. This plant is an alternative host to a number of viral diseases that affect members of the Amaryllidaceae, Liliaceae (broad view, including plants recently [30] moved into separate families) and Solanaceae[17].

Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[29].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Phytolacca americana. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Phytolacca americana.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Phytolacca americana
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    None listed.
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type

    "image:Gartenpflanze 2007.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Gartenpflanze 2007.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Gartenpflanze 2007.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

    "image:Gartenpflanze 2007.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Gartenpflanze 2007.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

    "image:Gartenpflanze 2007.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

    "image:Gartenpflanze 2007.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

    "image:Gartenpflanze 2007.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Gartenpflanze 2007.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Gartenpflanze 2007.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Gartenpflanze 2007.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Gartenpflanze 2007.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Gartenpflanze 2007.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

    "image:Gartenpflanze 2007.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.


    1. ? Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
    2. ? Elias. T. and Dykeman. P. A Field Guide to N. American Edible Wild Plants. Van Nostrand Reinhold ISBN 0442222009 (1982-00-00)
    3. ? Cooper. M. and Johnson. A. Poisonous Plants in Britain and their Effects on Animals and Man. HMSO ISBN 0112425291 (1984-00-00)
    4. ? Saunders. C. F. Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the United States and Canada. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-23310-3 (1976-00-00)
    5. ? Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America. Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 0395467225 (1990-00-00)
    6. ? 6.06.1 Diggs, Jnr. G.M.; Lipscomb. B. L. & O'Kennon. R. J [Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas] Botanical Research Institute, Texas. (1999-00-00)
    7. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
    8. ? 8.08.1 Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (1972-00-00)
    9. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
    10. ? Organ. J. Rare Vegetables for Garden and Table. Faber (1960-00-00)
    11. ? Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
    12. ? Kavasch. B. Native Harvests. Vintage Books ISBN 0-394-72811-4 (1979-00-00)
    13. ? Riotte. L. Companion Planting for Successful Gardening. Garden Way, Vermont, USA. ISBN 0-88266-064-0 (1978-00-00)
    14. ? McPherson. A. and S. Wild Food Plants of Indiana. Indiana University Press ISBN 0-253-28925-4 (1977-00-00)
    15. ? 15.015.1 Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-917256-20-4 (1985-00-00)
    16. ? Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food. Ballantine Books ISBN 0-449-90589-6 (1980-00-00)
    17. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
    18. ? Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
    19. ? ? Flora Europaea Cambridge University Press (1964-00-00)
    20. ? 20.020.1 Schery. R. W. Plants for Man. ()
    21. ? 21.021.1 Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide. Oxford University Press ISBN 0192176218 (1969-00-00)
    22. ? Buchanan. R. A Weavers Garden. ()
    23. ? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
    24. ? 24.024.1 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
    25. ? 25.025.1 Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism. ()
    26. ? 26.026.1 Emboden. W. Narcotic Plants Studio Vista ISBN 0-289-70864-8 (1979-00-00)
    27. ? Castro. M. The Complete Homeopathy Handbook. Macmillan. London. ISBN 0-333-55581-3 (1990-00-00)
    28. ? Sanders. T. W. Popular Hardy Perennials. Collingridge (1926-00-00)
    29. ? 29.029.1 Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants J. M. Dent & Sons, London. ISBN 0 460 86048 8 (1990-00-00)
    30. ? Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named PFAFimport-1992
    31. ? Fernald. M. L. Gray's Manual of Botany. American Book Co. (1950-00-00)

    Cite error: <ref> tag with name "PFAFimport-17" defined in <references> is not used in prior text.

    "image:Gartenpflanze 2007.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

    Facts about "Phytolacca americana"RDF feed
    Article is incompleteYes +
    Article requires citationsNo +
    Article requires cleanupYes +
    Belongs to familyPhytolaccaceae +
    Belongs to genusPhytolacca +
    Has binomial namePhytolacca americana +
    Has common namePokeweed +
    Has drought toleranceIntolerant +
    Has edible partUnknown part +, Fruit + and Leaves +
    Has edible useColouring + and Unknown use +
    Has flowers of typeHermaphrodite +
    Has growth rateVigorous +
    Has hardiness zone4 +
    Has imageGartenpflanze 2007.jpg +
    Has lifecycle typePerennial +
    Has material partUnknown part +
    Has material useInk +, Insecticide + and Soap +
    Has mature height2 +
    Has mature width1.5 +
    Has medicinal partUnknown part +
    Has medicinal useAlterative +, Anodyne +, Antiinflammatory +, Antiviral +, Cancer +, Cathartic +, Expectorant +, Homeopathy +, Hypnotic +, Narcotic + and Purgative +
    Has primary imageGartenpflanze 2007.jpg +
    Has search namephytolacca americana + and pokeweed +
    Has shade toleranceLight shade +
    Has soil ph preferenceAcid +, Neutral + and Alkaline +
    Has soil texture preferenceSandy +, Loamy + and Clay +
    Has sun preferenceFull sun +
    Has taxonomic rankSpecies +
    Has taxonomy namePhytolacca americana +
    Has water requirementsmoderate +
    Is taxonomy typeSpecies +
    PFAF cultivation notes migratedNo +
    PFAF edible use notes migratedNo +
    PFAF material use notes migratedNo +
    PFAF medicinal use notes migratedNo +
    PFAF propagation notes migratedNo +
    PFAF toxicity notes migratedNo +
    Tolerates nutritionally poor soilNo +
    Uses mature size measurement unitMeters +
    Has subobjectThis property is a special property in this wiki.Phytolacca americana +, Phytolacca americana +, Phytolacca americana +, Phytolacca americana +, Phytolacca americana +, Phytolacca americana +, Phytolacca americana +, Phytolacca americana +, Phytolacca americana +, Phytolacca americana +, Phytolacca americana +, Phytolacca americana +, Phytolacca americana +, Phytolacca americana +, Phytolacca americana +, Phytolacca americana + and Phytolacca americana +