Scientific Name: Phytolacca americana

Common Name: American pokeweed

Other Common Names: common pokeweed, inkberry, pigeonberry, pokeberry, pokeweed

Habit: This branching perennial herb grows in an erect stance, and can reach heights of 10 ft. The plant can be found flowering from mid summer through late fall. Once in the ground, the seeds can remain viable for up to 40 years before germination occurs.

Leaves: The cotyledons of seedlings are egg-shaped with purple tips. The cotyledons often have a reddish tint to the underside, and also around the petioles. The leaves of a mature plant are alternate and petiolated. These egg-shaped leaves are hairless, and grow from 3.5 to 12 inches in length.

Identifying Characteristics: Common pokeweed contains saponic glycosides, a compound that causes the division of white blood cells. The roots contain most of this chemical, making it the most dangerous part of the plant. The berries, however, contain no poisons, and are often eaten by birds.

Flower Seed Head: Flowers occur on long, slender racemes at the top of the plant. Individual flowers have 5 white or pink tinged sepals that grow up to 6 mm across.

Seed Fruit: The fruit of the common pokeweed are small, green berries that turn dark purple or black when ripe. These small berries contain a dark red juice that can be used as a temporary dye. The seeds are flattened, round, and glossy black.

Where Found: This plant can be found growing in open areas, fence rows, pastures, and along roadsides.

  • Life cycle: perennial

  • Milky sap: Not Present

  • Plant type: Herb

  • Thorns: Not Present

  • Plant family: Phytolaccaceae

  • Leaf arrangement: alternate

  • Leaf shape: oval; round

  • Ochrea: Not Present

  • Leaf margin: entire; wavy

  • Stem hairs: no hairs

  • Flower color: white

  • Growth habit: upright and nonwoody

  • Stem: round or oval

  • Leaf structure: simple

  • Leaf hairs: no hairs

  • Flower diameter: pencil

  • Flower symmetry: radial symetery

  • Root structure: taproot

  • Leaf stalk: shorter than leaf