• Drat! Pokeweed! No, Chokecherry? Hope so!

    by  • February 29, 2012 • Garden, Plant Profiles, Sierra Foothills

    What I thought might be buckeye or elderberry, turns out to be pokeweed! Darn!  My sister helped my identify this by punching in descriptive words into Google images. How did it possibly get here, so close to the native forest at the edge of the property?

    American Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, next to the charred trunk of the Grey pine.

    American Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, next to the charred trunk of the Grey pine last May.

    American Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, is native to the Eastern US and the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) lists it as causing limited impact in native ecosystems. It’s been quietly growing on the property line next to the charred Bull pine for all the tens years we’ve been here, but it’s likely it burned to the ground in 2001, by the looks of the tree trunk.

    Wikipedia gives all these altenate names for pokeweed: Virginia poke, American nightshade, cancer jalap, coakum, garget, inkberry, pigeon berry, pocan, pokeroot, pokeweed, pokeberry, redweed, scoke, red ink plant and chui xu shang lu.

    American Pokeweed blooms in May

    American Pokeweed blooms in May

    The berries can be used as dye, haven’t seen those but, will watch for them next summer. I imagine that they’re eaten by birds here. I’ll also watch for signs that it’s invading by throwing off seedlings. I guess I’ve never noticed it as it’s in a patch of poison oak. Now, that I’ve become used to the disappointment that it is not an interesting native plant,…I kind of like it ,…if it behaves.

    Some say it’s edible, tastes like spinich and some say it’s poisonous until boiling it,….yep, it’s canned as poke salet as well, the subject of the old song, Poke Salad Annie* by who Creedence Clearwater??  Hmmm, these are tough economic times,…will Tractor Man eat it?  He ate Miner’s lettuce.

    Update: Due to many comments identifying this as chokecherry, I will reserve judgement on this until it blooms again…I’m rooting for the native chokecherry,…I love finding new CA natives on our place! 

    *yes, written by Tony Joe White, but I went to high school in the 70s, so Creedence is my experience.


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.