Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why is it called Pokeweed?

The “poke” in Pokeweed comes from the Powhatan or Virginia Algonquian Indians of Virginia whose word for blood was “pak”. 

Pokeweed is common throughout Kansas and the Midwest, growing in fields, along highway fences, and near woodland edges. 

The plant can reach 6 to 8 feet in height. Leaves are smooth and oblong, usually 6 to 8 inches in length. In winter the stalks wither, but the perennial root remains viable below the ground.

Clusters of succulent, pea-size berries, occur at the tops of the plants. Birds love them, but the berries are poisonous to humans. The shade and berries of the Pokeweed are attractive to game birds such as the Bobwhite and Quail.

As the plant matures, the berries turn a shiny bright purple, which can be used as a dye. The Pawnee Indians used the color to paint war horses. During the Civil War, soldiers of both sides used the berries as ink to write letters home.



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