Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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

Pruning the leaves of Sago Palm.
March 10, 2010 - Is it a cardinal sin to remove all the sago palm branches? This winter they were so badly scorched by the cold that hardly a frond went unaffected. So I cut them all off as I needed to get around the...
view the full question and answer

Toxicity of Texas Mountain Laurel seeds to livestock and dogs?
March 09, 2011 - Are the seeds of the Texas Mountain Laurel poisonous to livestock or dogs? Thanks
view the full question and answer

Transplanting adventitious shoots of a mountain laurel in San Antonio
August 20, 2009 - Is it possible to transplant branches (shoots) growing from a mountain laurel that was chopped down? Some are two years old and several feet tall (but not yet blooming) and some as small as a foot. ...
view the full question and answer

Are Viguiera dentate leaves toxic to dogs?
November 26, 2014 - Many dogs on the Turkey Creek Nature Trail in Emma Long Metropolitan Park love to snack on the leaves of the Viguiera Dentata plants. The leaves SEEM to be harmless. I am writing to request informat...
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

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.