En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - May 21, 2013

From: Waterford, CA
Region: California
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Beneficial characteristics of Phytolacca americana (Pokeweed)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a surprise Polk weed plant growing in my back yard, does it have any beneficial uses,and if not, how best to eradicate it. Thank you.

ANSWER:

Phytolacca americana (American pokeweed) is a very interesting plant and about this time each year we get inquiries from people about this large plant with white flowers and/or purple berries growing on their property. Native Americans used various parts of the plant to treat numerous ailments.  Although the plants are considered poisonous, their various parts (leaves, shoots, berries) are also edible if collected and prepared properly.  Here is more information from Ohio State University Extension.

There are several plants growing in my yard here in Texas.   I like them!   The birds love the berries; but, given the toxic nature of the plant—especially if you have children that come into your yard and would be attracted to the red berries—you might want to remove your plant.  They aren't an endangered species.  You want to do this before the plant is well-established.  Since you have only one plant, it shouldn't be too difficult to achieve.  If possible, dig up the entire plant with as much of the root as possible.  If you can't get the entire root out of the ground, you could paint the cut surface of the root with an herbicide (such as RoundUp) using a small foam brush.  You will want to paint the cut surface quickly after you cut down the plant because most plant cells can quickly seal themselves (a defense mechanism) and, thus, won't absorb as much herbicide.  Seal the plant in a plastic bag and dispose of it in the garbage.  Read and follow the health safety directions on the herbicide container and be careful not to get the herbicide on any plant you're interested in keeping.  More plants may show up.  Birds eat and deposit seeds.

Here's an interesting article:  Pokeweed, American (Phytolacca americana):  The Jekyll and Hyde Plant.

 

From the Image Gallery


American pokeweed
Phytolacca americana

American pokeweed
Phytolacca americana

American pokeweed
Phytolacca americana

American pokeweed
Phytolacca americana

American pokeweed
Phytolacca americana

More Poisonous Plants Questions

Itchy hands from handling Lantana plants
September 13, 2009 - I am in Ocala,FL. I pick up with my hands branches from a cut down Lantana Plant. My hands are very itchy, what can I do. THANK YOU FOR YOU.
view the full question and answer

Urushiol Oil Persistance?
September 09, 2015 - I'm trekking into poison ivy infested areas for work every other day. I make sure to wear long pants, long sleeves, boots, and long socks over my pants. I walk into my office to drop off supplies and...
view the full question and answer

Alternative to Carolina Cherry Laurel in Cedar Park TX
May 10, 2010 - I love the look of the Carolina Cherry Laurel but hear that its berries are poisonous and can harm my dog if he eats them. What are some other alternatives that have a similar look; I'm looking for ...
view the full question and answer

How toxic are milkweed (Asclepias spp.)?
November 01, 2011 - We are considering a monarch waystation for our local elementary and are concerned about milkweed toxicity. Would it be safe to plant it in reach of children?
view the full question and answer

Planting Mountain Laurel grown from seeds in Argentina
April 09, 2014 - Hello, I was transferred to Cordoba, Argentina 2 years ago from San Antonio, the climate hereis similar to S. TX, anyway I brought some mountain laurel seeds with me and they have been in 2 gallon pot...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center