pokeweed- blessing or bane?

earthyone(z5 IA)September 4, 2004

A friend gave me seeds from her pokeweed. It is a beautiful plant that I have never seen before. She told me that birds can reseed it easily, but it isn't hard to control, so that sounds ok, but I squeezed some berries as I started to plant it, saw the bright staining & began to think about the purple bird droppings from a mulberry tree we used to dread. Can I have some advice on this plant before I put in in my backyard garden?

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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Well, because the birds love it...it will appear all over your yard. If you pull up the seedlings in their first year, you will be okay. If you don't....those things grow really big taproots really quickly, and you will rue the day you ever planted it.

And yes, the birds will poop purple!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2004 at 5:56PM
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earthyone(z5 IA)

'nough said. I'll go admire it in her garden. Thanks!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2004 at 8:38PM
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Get rid of it----------FAST! I have been pulling out 10' long tap roots. If you don't get all of the root, it will be back, and it will send out more root to appear across the yard.
By all means don't let it go to seed either.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2004 at 12:20AM
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Yes, bane. I've gotten rid of much of it, but seedlings come up every spring. It's also poisonous.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2004 at 9:21AM
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Ssettler children used chalkboards for most of their writing practice, but in early fall it was a treat to make temporary ink of crushed pokeweed berries. It is a pretty rich purple that is not colorfast, so fades to tan, but was a fun treat instead of chalk for a day. Later, they could make a more permanant ink of black walnut husks, but it was brown, not the pretty purple. So that I can tell this to children visitors, I allow two plants to grow in my 2/3 acre yard, in case something happens to one. Each year, i have maybe 2 or 3 appear else where that I weed out. Sometimes, the original plant dies, so I will leave one of the new ones to replace it. It is native, so not prone to invasive aggressiveness. But do look at the plant in the spring and learn what young leaves look like so you can be vigilant and weed out ones you do not want. It is a BIG plant and kind of a rangy gawky thing, so not appropriate in all locations in the landscape! But too interesting in flower, when the seeds are green, and when ripe to give up entirely!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2004 at 4:24PM
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Poke is a beautiful plant. The bright red/purple stalks, if you have room for it on your place. It is easy to whack it out if you see some sprouts that you dont want to allow to mature.
I will always allow a few to live in my space.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2004 at 12:20PM
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etznab(7 NC)

Cooked pokeberry leaves are edible, and a common side dish in Southern cooking. They taste better when they are young and tender, before the berries develop. The berries and older leaves are poisonous - more dangerous to livestock than humans.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2004 at 9:51PM
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Here it only seems to grow at the edge of shady areas. It has not been a problem to me. I have one plant on my three acres and have not seen others appear. I think it is very pretty

    Bookmark   October 24, 2004 at 10:44PM
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Flowerkitty(Z6 or Z5 SE MI)

We have pokeweed naturally here. I like it. It is so beautiful when the berries appear. They grow like little trees, clean and tidy. It is easy to recognize and remove when new plants pop up and not as prolific as maples etc. It is recommended you not handle the plants or get a lot of plant juices on you. Mature plants do get big roots. The root of one 6 foot plant I pulled had a giant knob like a turnip, about 8 inches across. When the root gets that big it is a bear to remove. Something has eaten the berries on all my plants. From the link below:
"Pokeweed berries are an important food source for wild life. American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Gray Catbird, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Cardinal, Great-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, European Starling, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, Red Fox, Virginia Opossum, Raccoon, and White-footed Mouse all eat the berries.
These animals help spread Pokeweed by pooping out the seeds in new places". The plants except the young shoots are toxic to us humans

Here is a link that might be useful: pokeweed

    Bookmark   October 27, 2004 at 2:44PM
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Flowerkitty(Z6 or Z5 SE MI)

ALso here is a link with a great photo of a pokeweed stained bird ... proof positive they like those berries

Here is a link that might be useful: pokeweed eating bird

    Bookmark   October 27, 2004 at 2:55PM
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StarStruk(z5 MA)

I've got a lot of it around. Can anyone share the best way to get rid of it once it is well-established?


    Bookmark   September 11, 2005 at 4:56PM
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tabbycat55(z6 Ont Canada)

Came across the web item: Glyphosate (Roundup)will kill or damage any plant whose leaves or green stems it contacts. Here's a way to eliminate deep-rooted, established perennial weeds that have come up in the middle of a bed and can't be sprayed: cut the stem and apply a single drop or two of undiluted Glyphosate (I use a recycled nasal applicator. Label it carefully!). This will kill even persistent thistle, burdock, pokeweed and small trees, is economical, and doesn't endanger surrounding plants. Wear protective gloves during this process and wash up thoroughly!

Here is a link that might be useful: The Master Gardeners

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 11:38PM
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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

Blessing! I would definitely keep Pokeweed. It looks nice, attracts birds, and is native. I have several dozen large plants and I've seen probably two dozen species of birds eating the berries. This time of year they are full of birds - today catbirds, cedar waxwings, robins, and even a Veery were in the Pokeberries. I do get many, many seedlings popping up, but they're no problem to pull while they're small, which includes almost the whole first summer.

Larger plants can either be dug out or simply chopped off at the base. In either case, they'll come back and you have to chop them down again. After a few times being cut back they will disappear.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2006 at 12:29PM
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I happen to like the stuff but it is aggressive. We have twice as much as we did two years ago. Since that is space that would otherwise be taken up by garlic mustard and other nasties I currently like its aggressive nature.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2006 at 5:28PM
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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

This week my pokeweeds have attracted lots of birds including cedar waxwings, robins, eastern bluebirds, swainson's thrushes, gray-cheeked thrushes, gray catbirds, mockingbirds, and a late scarlet tanager. I think they're a blessing.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2006 at 7:27PM
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Hi, I have just returned to Australia after a holiday in America, to discover that this really neat bush in my back yard is a Pokeweed.
No one here could tell me what it was, so I was surprised to find it growing everywhere I went in North/South Carolina. Trying to find information on how it grows in Aus has been difficult. The plant that I have is very bushy and dense in shape. It is approximately 10feet tall and the same round.
While I had been told that the berries were poision, my free range chickens, party on the ripe berries. Although I have never seen any of our native birds eat it.
We only have the one plant, and that is about 5years old. No other plants have appeared. I was very surprised to read that it could be such a problem.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2006 at 10:52PM
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dghays(Z10A FL Brevard)

I have not found it real aggressive on my property in Florida.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2006 at 1:21PM
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mwbeall(IN5 E tallgrassregion)

Here in IN I have poke growing naturally and it seems to have enuf competion to keep it form taking over, which I have NEVER seen in the 30 years I have owned the property. However, I agree with ldyslippr as to roundup, only a 50% solution applied to the CUT stems will kill it; or you may spray the plant w the solution, either way. Be careful w al chems, tho, please.

Best regards, mike@prairiesedge.org

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 5:02PM
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oakleif(z6 AR)

Hi, Came over to this forum for some other info but could'nt resist answering to this thread.
We have poke here in the Ozarks and i love it as a plant for wildlife and for me. In the spring when the plant is just putting out leaves i go out and gather the small leaves rinse them good than parboil them twice and cook in a sauce pan with a peice of browned bacon and salt than sit back and injoy. The older leaves are poison as are stalks,berries and roots.
oakleif (an old Arkie)

    Bookmark   January 7, 2007 at 10:53PM
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Blessing. I've been eating poke weed since I was a child. Sweeter than spinach, and growing free in my backyard. I eat it, steamed, when the leaves and stalks are green, and stop eating it when the stalks/ leaves/ berries start getting purple. It is a beautiful plant and easy to remove if it grows in an unwanted area. That it attracts birds is a bonus!

Here is a link that might be useful: Science for Health and Energy

    Bookmark   January 8, 2007 at 10:49AM
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I have 4 acres of wildlife habitat and I love Pokeweed because it feeds wildlife all winter and it's also a beautiful native plant

    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 12:01PM
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i also love pokeweed! i have some in my yard n have not had it get aggressive.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 8:46AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Blessing AND bane. The birds absolutely love Pokeweed, but it is quite aggressive for a native plant.

There is a patch of several ginormous Pokeweeds growing close the border of my property on the neighbor's side. The birds have been eating and pooping berries all over for decades. However, my backyard was covered with invasives and the canopy was dominated by Norway maples, so the Pokeweed never sprouted much over here.

Well I've been clearing out the invasives and had 3 Norway maples in the backyard removed. The Pokeweed has gone nuts (along with the Oriental bittersweet, etc)! Thousands of seeds laying dormant have sprouted. I've been weeding and digging it out all spring and summer.

I like having a few, but don't need three thousand of them.
Here's a pic I took in July showing how vigorously it has sprouted.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2008 at 9:59AM
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I found pokeweed seedlings in my garden years ago. I let a few grow to see what they were and found their shape, changing colors and arching purple berries quite beautiful. Migrating robins visit late fall and have a convention. Since I've been working to create a garden of native species, pokeweed has been a dynamic addition. Their seedlings can take over, but they are easy to cut at the root with a shovel (or pull-out after a rainstorm). If a seedling grows in a place where it fits, I let it go. I have one plant over 8 yrs old, reached over 6ft tall and I finally had to transplant it. The root ball was easily 18" round and deep. It just need to find the right place in the garden. Pokeweed is a beautiful addition to a garden, roadside, fence edging... wherever it likes to grow.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2010 at 11:19PM
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I have several areas in my yard that I allow the poke weed to grow 6-7ft tall. I take off the lower leaves, and it takes on a very tropical look. It is very beautiful in the fall and I very much enjoy watchign the birds hand onto the plant to eat the berries. I'm all about having a natural environment so I'm not bothered by the new plants or poop. I keep the many smaller plants trimmed low and they have the appearance of hosta throughout the summer.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 5:40PM
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Whereas I might think the plant looks pretty and love that it is great for the wildlife, I cannot allow poisonous berries to grow in my yard with a toddler and an infant in the house. Simply cutting the bush out does not work, so I will be taking the advice given here to cut it and put roundup on the stump. I tried to cut it out last year, but it grew back even stronger than before. It went from being one little stalk to covering half of the front of my house in only a couple of weeks, and it is even worse this spring than it had been before. My toddler loves to play in the yard and loves eating berries, so I am getting rid of the pokeweed before it becomes a problem.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 11:19AM
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It has been several years, but a native garden expert taught me (from one of her native 'bibles') that there is a native and NON-NATIVE pokeweed. The one appearing in my yard is non-native and not welcome. Keep this in mind, especially because there is the fallacy that pokeweed is always native.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 1:17PM
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Pokeweed has a hollow stem that is easily cut, right? So you could probably save on expensive Roundup by cutting the stem and putting some rock salt down the hollow stem.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 11:07PM
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BANE! I've found this sort of "pretty" plant popping up all over my yard in metro-DC area. The really big plants are in my neighbors yard just out of my reach.
I consider this plant to be BANE, because my mom had a similar issue with a neighbor that intentionally planted it. Pokeweed is EXTREMELY toxic. Both my mom's dog and her neighbor's dogs ended up in ER vet. Almost died. We think they ate the berries. My niece played with the berries and got very sick too.
The purple bird poop is not fun either, but they spread the pokeweed if you lt it get to that point! I;m on a mission to get rid of it along with the poison ivy, sumac and oak I found hiding in my English ivy coming from roots in my neighbors yard. Don't get me started on what I learned today is kudzo climbing my Hemlocks and choking them out.
I've got a toddler to look out for, and trying to keep these toxins away from the lovely little dog in my new neighbors yard that my daughter loves to talk to. I'm taking care of this organic way, just yanking, pulling and digging. I don't want to subject my kid to more toxins. Don't believe me? Check out http://extension.psu.edu/prepare/emergencyready/drought/dairylivestock/pokeweed among a million other sources that say it is bad!
I joined gardenweb this evening because it was the first thing that popped up in my google search. I think I'm joining this discussion about 6 years too late for the original post, but thought some more balance needs to be brought to this discussion as the first url that came up on pokeweed.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 9:49PM
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what are you talking about the wild dogbane weed i would rather have that weed than poke-weed some ppl make ink stuff out of poke-weed berry's i have a pokeweed root and its fat i let it grow for the birds but they never seem to eat the berries dogbane makes those seedpods just like milkweeds do

if you want birds or rabbits plant you some black berry plants.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 12:20AM
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Dogbane is an excellent nectar plant for butterflies and a host plant for the beautiful Dogbane Beetle.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 4:11PM
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I love our Pokeweed - it popped up one year along our house in front of my bedroom window. I didn't like it at first because it blocked my view of the yard some, but I grew to love it. :)

We have a dog who tends to eat everything but has never bothered the Pokeweed... I'm of the group that believes most animals instinctively *know* what is good and bad for them. The posted link from PSU does also mention that.

The cardinals LOVE it... I see them outside my window (I work from home and my desk is in front of the window) multiple times a day. Even after the snow has fallen here, the berries are happy and so are the cardinals!

We haven't had it very long (3 years) but we haven't had any problems with it being aggressive. No seedlings have popped up and we haven't had any issues with the purple droppings yet. I grew up with some Bittersweet Nightshade ALL OVER the side of our yard (probably a 15-20 foot wall of it along a fence) Our yard was small, we lived in inner city Detroit at the time... so I'm used to the purple droppings so I wouldn't care if I did have that issue now.

I say it's a blessing. The animals love it and I think it's attractive. :)

    Bookmark   November 21, 2014 at 1:35PM
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