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Mr. Smarty Plants - Mosaic virus in Poke Salad in East Texas

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Sunday - April 20, 2008

From: Oakwood, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Mosaic virus in Poke Salad in East Texas
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in a rural East Texas, and have an abundance of Poke Salad. If you know how to prepare it, it's a springtime treat for anyone who enjoys veggies. However, for the last few years, many of the older plants are showing symptoms of a mosaic-like condition. Leaves are mottled with pale areas and are crenated. The plants may not be quite as vigorous as unaffected ones, but still grow and reproduce. My questions are: Are affected plants likely to transmit this condition to any other species? I haven't seen any evidence of this, but as an avid vegetable gardener, I'd like to know. Also, is there any reason to avoid these plants when gathering a springtime "mess" of greens?

ANSWER:

Gee, we hate to rain on your parade, but when we started research on your question, the first thing we found was an Alabama Cooperative Extension website, Don't Eat Poke Salad. Then we went to our Native Plant Database page on Phytolacca americana (American pokeweed) and there are actually recommendations for cooking, although it also warns about the poisonous nature of the whole plant. Frankly, even though this is a part of American culture, we don't think we'd want to touch it no matter how well it was cooked. Pokeweed is an alternative host for several plant viruses that feeding insects can transmit to other plants nearby. Since it is toxic both to humans and animals, it is considered a weed pest by many. We really can't recommend eating this plant at all, and would recommend that it be removed from the area of other greens that you may be using for food.


Phytolacca americana

Phytolacca americana

Phytolacca americana

Phytolacca americana

 

 

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