Pokeweed, American nightshade, cancer jalap, cancerroot, chongras, coakum, cocum, cokan, common pokeberry, crowberry, garget, inkberry, jalap, pigeonberry, pocan, pocan bush, poke, pokeberry, pokeroot, red-ink plant, red wood, scoke, skoke, Virginia poke.
A perennial that grows to 9 feet in height. It has a thick, hollow, red stem, and an unpleasant smell. Leaves are ovate, entire, long, and petioled. Flowers are white to pinkish in terminal racemes. Produces spikes or racemes of dark purple berries.
July to September.
Maine to Mexico, w. to Minnesota.
Rich, low ground, old fields, and recently cleared areas and roadsides.
Root in fall; ripe berries.
Young shoots, when properly prepared in spring, are edible. Consumption of the plant is dangerouse because it becomes poisonous as it matures. Medically it is a slow emetic and a purgative, with some narcotic properties. The dried root is reported valuable in treating hemorrhoids. In Appalachia, pokeberry wine is thought to help alleviate rheumatism; and in some areas dried fruits are used as a poultice on sores.
Poke the Pamunkey of Virginia treated rheumatism with boiled poke berries. Several tribes used berry pigments as a dye. All parts of the plant are poisonous.