Scientific name: Phytolacca americana L.

Growing up, I always thought of pokeberry as a weed because everyone told me it was just an ugly weed, and it is more commonly referred to as “Pokeweed”. When I saw it rising from the garden, I had to retrain my mind to appreciate its beauty. From its rose-colored stems to the bold shapes it makes as a mature plant, it outperforms many non-native ornamentals. It would be great to see some ‘rebranding’ of this plant and we can all do that by replacing the word “weed” with “berry” whenever we talk about it.

I always assumed that it was called “pokeberry” because it looks like someone poked each berry in the middle. The truth is that the word “poke” was derived from the word “poughkone” which means “red-dye” in Powhatan. Powhatan was the language spoken by a Native American tribe in the East Coast. They used the berries to make dye. The language has since been declared extinct. Wikipedia has some great info on that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powhatan_language

I now know that Pokeberry makes for a great natural birdfeeder. I have yet to catch the birds in action eating from our pokeberry plants, but the berries do mysteriously disappear soon after ripening.

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