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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
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Friday - August 20, 2010

From: Shelby, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification, possibly Phytolacca americana (American pokeweed)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a patch of plants I can't find what they are, could you help? The plant is a tuber (resembles a carrot when it is small), the stalk is red and fibrous, comes back each year bigger, has green leaves and multiple clusters of black, round berries. I am from the west coast and have never seen it. I don't see it in any of the other yards around our property. It appears to spread. The size of the roots on the older plants are very large. What is it and is it poisonous? Thanks

ANSWER:

This sounds a bit like Phytolacca americana (American pokeweed).  If it is American pokeweed, then yes, it is poisonous in some stages, but it is also can be eaten with care after preparation.  You can read more about its medicinal and toxic properties here.  Below are some photos of it.  If this doesn't appear to be your plant, please send us photos of it and we will do our best to identify it.  Here are the instructions for submitting photos or you can read them on Mr. Smarty Plants' Plant Identification page:

1.  Tell us where and when you found the plant and describe the site where it occurred.
2.  If possible, take several high-resolution images including details of leaves, stems, flowers, fruit, and the overall plant.
3.  Save images in JPEG format. Do not reduce the resolution of your images. High-resolution images are much easier for us to work with.
4.  Send email with images attached to id@smartyplants.org. Please enter Plant ID Request on the subject line of your email.

 

Photos of American pokeweed from our Image Gallery:


Phytolacca americana

Phytolacca americana

Phytolacca americana

Phytolacca americana

 

 

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