Common pokeweed Phytolacca americana L.
Family: Phytolaccaceae (Pokeweed family)
Life cycle: Perennial reproducing by seed
Native status: Native to N. America
Habitat: Waste areas, landscapes, no-till fields
General description: Large, branched herbaceous perennial producing a large taproot and reaching heights of 9 ft. Emerging shoots resemble asparagus with large leaves. Leaves are alternate, egg-shaped to lanceolate, glabrous, up to 12” long and 4” wide. Stems frequently red or purple. Flowers produced on terminal racemes, white developing into dark purple berries.
Key ID traits: Branched plant with large, lanceolate leaves with entire or wavy margin. Raceme of white flowers or purple berries.
Miscellaneous: Although all parts of the plant contain toxins, when shoots or leaves are harvested early and boiled they are safe and were widely used as a salad green in the south. Young shoots can be prepared similar to asparagus. In 1969, Polk Salad Annie, a song by Tony Joe White, reached #8 in the Top 100.