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Pokeberry, pokeweed, pigeonberry, inkweed, garget, scobe

Family: Phytolaccaceae

Scientific name: Phytolacca american L.

Common name: Pokeberry, pokeweed, pigeonberry, inkweed, garget, scobe

Description: Pokeberry is a smooth, herbaceous perennial of the pokeberry family; it develops from a thick taproot. The stem may reach up to 6 feet tall. The broadly lanceolate leaves are alternate and entire. Bisexual flowers are borne on stout pedicels on a drooping raceme. The perianth consists of five greenish-white or pink sepals. The fruit is a dark purple, subglobose berry that contains a red juice. Each berry has 10 shiny black seeds. The common name pigeonberry suggests their use by birds.

Occurrence: This species is native to the Eastern United States and Canada. It has been introduced in barnyards and near waterways and seems to be spreading in the southwestern States.

Toxicity: All parts of the plant are toxic. The fleshy taproot is particularly poisonous. When boiled in two changes of water, the young shoots often are eaten as greens. The ripe barrios sometimes are cooked in pies. The use of any part of the plant as food, however, should be discouraged because improper cooking may not completely detoxify shoots and berries. Several berries may poison a child and 10 berries or more may sicken an adult. Deaths of children have been reported from massive consumption of ripe berries.

Symptoms: In humans, symptoms of poisoning include a burning sensation in the mouth followed by stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, weak respiration, prostration, dimness of vision, and convulsions.

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