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Friday - September 10, 2010

From: Greensburg, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: How to Remove Pokeweed in Greenburg, Pennsylvania
Answered by: Marilyn Kircus


Last year I purchased a home with 3 acres of land and it is infested with pokeweeds,Phytolacca americana! I have small children and know this is a poisonous plant. Could you please tell me a way to get rid of these? There are over 30 around the property. The owner before was an herbalist and grew them for consumption but I do not want to risk it.


Phytolacca americana L. (American Pokeweed) berries are an important food source for wild life. American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Gray Catbird, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Cardinal, Great-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, European Starling, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, Red Fox, Virginia Opossum, Raccoon, and White-footed Mouse all eat the berries.

These animals help spread Pokeweed by pooping the seeds in new places.

So you will probably never be without pokeweed any more than you will probably never be without poison ivy.  The seedlings and small plants can be pulled by hand but you have to dig out the entire huge taproot of the larger plants as pieces will regenerate.  The plants are not poisonous unless ingested, so handling them is not dangerous.

Your children will be mainly attracted to the berries. Some people cut them off which, over time, will help prevent more plants from growing.  However my daughter has a few pokeweeds on her property and we have never been concerned that my now five year old grandson will eat them. He has been gardening with me since he was two and we always talk about only eating plants that an adult says are safe to eat.  And the berries are the main part of the plant that wildlife uses.

And remember, the Declaration of Independence was signed with pokeweed berry ink so you are hosting a plant has an interesting history as well as one that important to the lives of many animals.

Phytolacca americana



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