Plant ID forum: Wonky plant

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DrPorkins
Jul 20, 2016 10:18 AM CST
This is the second year it appeared. I clipped it by the stem last year, thinking it was just a nuisance plant.
But it came back again, same spot. What is this? Is it worth saving or replanting?

Cheers I tip my hat to you.

Thumb of 2016-07-20/DrPorkins/cfa451


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Thumb of 2016-07-20/DrPorkins/4e00a5

Name: Tara
NE, Florida (Zone 9a)
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terrafirma
Jul 20, 2016 10:26 AM CST
Welcome! DrPorkins!
I think you have Pokeweed. Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)

[Last edited by terrafirma - Jul 20, 2016 10:27 AM (+)]
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Name: Lin
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plantladylin
Jul 20, 2016 10:48 AM CST
I agree, Pokeweed and be aware if you have small children or pets, the plant is toxic.

From Wikipedia:

~ Toxicity, poisoning, and mortality: The information with regard to the overall and significant toxicity of this plant and the risks to human and mammalian health it poses is consistent and pervasive. In summary, with regard to distribution through the plant: the poisonous principles are found in highest concentrations in the rootstock, then in leaves, and stems, and then in the ripe fruit, the plant generally gets more toxic with maturity, with the exception of the berries (which have significant toxicity even while green).

With regard to human and animal (pet and livestock) toxicity, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) staff scientists note that all parts of common pokeweed are toxic... Roots are the most poisonous, leaves and stems are intermediate in toxicity (toxicity increases with maturity), and berries are the least toxic."

With regard to human poisoning they note: "Children are most frequently poisoned by eating raw berries. Infants are especially sensitive and have died from eating only a few raw berries. Adults have been poisoned, sometimes fatally, by eating improperly prepared leaves and shoots, especially if part of the root is harvested with the shoot, and by mistaking the root for an edible tuber. Research with humans has also shown that common pokeweed can cause mutations (possibly leading to cancer) and birth defects. Since the juice of pokeweed can be absorbed through the skin, contact of plant parts with bare skin should be avoided."

As summarized by Michael D.K. Owen, for the Iowa State University Extension Service: "Most authorities regard the plant as poisonous... Humans have been poisoned by eating parts of the root, which is the most poisonous part of the plant. Children are often attracted by the bright crimson juice of the berries and can be poisoned by eating the berries...

If death occurs, it is usually due to paralysis of the respiratory organs... Because of the danger of human poisoning, pokeweed should be eradicated when discovered. This is especially true if the plants are in hedges, gardens, and other areas adjacent to a home where children may be attracted by clusters of berries."

A further well-referenced web reference on the toxicity states that pokeweed is to be avoided during pregnancy and notes that "children consum[ing] even one berry" require that "emergency poison treatment... be instituted"; in terms of general exposure, it notes "plant sap can cause dermatitis in sensitive people" and that "it is strongly recommended that the people wear gloves when handling the plant."

Regarding pet, livestock, and other mammailian poisoning, Owen notes that "birds are apparently immune to this poison" and that "animals usually do not eat the plant because of its bitter taste." The OARDC scientists echo the lack of animal palatability, and note that "most animals avoid eating it unless little else is available, or if it is in contaminated hay. Horses, sheep and cattle have been poisoned by eating fresh leaves or green fodder, and pigs have been poisoned by eating the roots."
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Name: Tara
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terrafirma
Jul 20, 2016 10:54 AM CST
Hey Lin! Great info...It would be worth copying into the comment section for the plant! Getcha an Acorn while your at it!!! Green Grin!
Name: Lin
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plantladylin
Jul 20, 2016 11:05 AM CST
terrafirma said:Hey Lin! Great info...It would be worth copying into the comment section for the plant! Getcha an Acorn while your at it!!! Green Grin!

*Blush* I never seem to remember to post comments to the database but yeah, that info from Wikipedia would be helpful ... multitasking here right now but I'll go add it before I forget . Green Grin!

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Name: Lin
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plantladylin
Jul 20, 2016 11:07 AM CST
Oops, I was going to copy/paste and cite that the info was from Wikipedia but there is a warning not to copy and paste information without explicit permission.
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Name: Tara
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terrafirma
Jul 20, 2016 11:11 AM CST
Blinking I didn't know that! I thought making a note of it would be enough...Hmm, legalities!

Thanks. Have to keep that in mind!
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purpleinopp
Jul 20, 2016 12:34 PM CST
The past few yrs the hype over pokeweed is growing to mythic proportions. I've never seen one actual news report of someone being poisoned. I tried to find any articles just now and none were about anything but warnings published in newspapers and websites about the horror of having one of these native plants in ones' midst. If one can be found, please share it.

When we go camping in a state park in a nature preserve in FL, there's tons of poison ivy and pokeweed in and around (and above) the campsites. The PI is one of the plants that appear on a sign about various common plants in the park, and in the little info pamphlet they give you so you can handle yourself more appropriately and safely in the park. The sign basically has a more polished version of, "here's what it looks like, it's here because it's native and important source of food for birds so don't touch it if it gives you a rash." There's no mention of pokeweed, growing within reach of hundreds of kids and bearing its' berries for months every year. If it was a problem, they would at least put it on the sign.

Poison Control has a calm, reasonable article. http://www.poison.org/articles/2012-aug/pokeberries-and-grap...
Their statics also indicate that kids are much more likely to be poisoned by cleaning stuff or medications (click "poison exposure statistics, pokeweed isn't among the things listed):
http://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/poison-control-center/p...

From a very brief search, one can glean that various honeysuckle berries pose a similar degree of threat. Nobody is worried or warning about kids eating those, and probably much more common in the garden/landscape.
https://www.google.com/#q=honeysuckle+berries+toxic

Is there a warning like that for Oleander, various Solanums, Daturas, Nandina? It would seem strange to me to put such a warning on this plant, a standard food item for some, on the menu in restaurants, if it's not on the others that have no edibility and/or higher level of danger in regard to ingestion toxicity.

Have you ever seen a can of Oleander greens for sale?
http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ecoph24.htm

People buy & plant Oleander, a much more toxic entity in their yard on purpose but if you have a pokeweed, you will be urged to kill it. Guaranteed every time the plant is mentioned, somebody will mention how menacingly dangerous it is.

Agree, one needs to follow a recipe if they're going to experiment epicuriously, but there should be some perspective about discussing its' toxicity, and/or suitability for any particular gardener/garden setting. There are various "toxins" in many parts of plants widely considered edible/food, and not all parts of every plant is edible. Tomatoes and potatoes come to mind. Tomato and potato leaves aren't considered edible because of the solanine. This is why potatoes must be stored in the dark or they turn green and can then cause indigestion because of the increase in solanine.

If one is in the US, P. americana is a native, an important food source for many birds. http://georgiawildlife.com/node/2793 This article has other interesting info, such as, "Pokeweed has long been thought to have medicinal value. At one time it was employed to cure everything from boils to acne. Today, pokeberry is being researched as a possible treatment for cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, a chemical found in pokeberry juice has been used to successfully treat cancerous tumors in laboratory mice. The chemical is also being tested to determine if it can protect cells from HIV and AIDS.

Remarkably, the lowly pokeberry may help solve the energy crisis. Researchers at Wake Forest University have discovered that a dye derived from pokeberries doubles the efficiency of fibers used in solar cells to absorb solar energy.


The sprouts pull easily the first year, not difficult to keep mature plants from occurring by pulling or hoe'ing/scuffling sprouts while young and delicate. Boiling water poured on a mature root will kill it. After watching plant ID forums since they were invented, I've seen that most people who ask for pokeweed ID make the effort to say something about how attractive they think it is. In all my years of gardening in both OH and AL, I've seen pokeweed sprouts in my own garden maybe a total of a dozen times.

There's also the dye thing that's had varying degrees of prevalence throughout history, and something people still like to do. One of my fav things about this plant is the dis-proven myth that the Declaration of Independence was written in pokeberry ink. No less charming even if not true, because it could have been.

I was thrilled to get a scroungy little sprout in our front yard last year. It was a puny thing and I guess it died because it's not back. If anyone is looking for a rationalization to keep their pokeweed plant, that grabbed their attention enough to try to ID it, there are plenty.
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Jul 21, 2016 8:37 PM CST
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Jul 21, 2016 8:53 PM CST

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plantladylin said:Oops, I was going to copy/paste and cite that the info was from Wikipedia but there is a warning not to copy and paste information without explicit permission.


Lin, it's a free encyclopedia, at the bottom it says "Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License" so just include that the info is quoted from Wikipedia.
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nativeplantlover
Jul 21, 2016 10:26 PM CST
purpleinopp said:The past few yrs the hype over pokeweed is growing to mythic proportions. I've never seen one actual news report of someone being poisoned. I tried to find any articles just now and none were about anything but warnings published in newspapers and websites about the horror of having one of these native plants in ones' midst. If one can be found, please share it.

When we go camping in a state park in a nature preserve in FL, there's tons of poison ivy and pokeweed in and around (and above) the campsites. The PI is one of the plants that appear on a sign about various common plants in the park, and in the little info pamphlet they give you so you can handle yourself more appropriately and safely in the park. The sign basically has a more polished version of, "here's what it looks like, it's here because it's native and important source of food for birds so don't touch it if it gives you a rash." There's no mention of pokeweed, growing within reach of hundreds of kids and bearing its' berries for months every year. If it was a problem, they would at least put it on the sign.

Poison Control has a calm, reasonable article. http://www.poison.org/articles/2012-aug/pokeberries-and-grap...
Their statics also indicate that kids are much more likely to be poisoned by cleaning stuff or medications (click "poison exposure statistics, pokeweed isn't among the things listed):
http://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/poison-control-center/p...

From a very brief search, one can glean that various honeysuckle berries pose a similar degree of threat. Nobody is worried or warning about kids eating those, and probably much more common in the garden/landscape.
https://www.google.com/#q=honeysuckle+berries+toxic

Is there a warning like that for Oleander, various Solanums, Daturas, Nandina? It would seem strange to me to put such a warning on this plant, a standard food item for some, on the menu in restaurants, if it's not on the others that have no edibility and/or higher level of danger in regard to ingestion toxicity.

Have you ever seen a can of Oleander greens for sale?
http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ecoph24.htm

People buy & plant Oleander, a much more toxic entity in their yard on purpose but if you have a pokeweed, you will be urged to kill it. Guaranteed every time the plant is mentioned, somebody will mention how menacingly dangerous it is.

Agree, one needs to follow a recipe if they're going to experiment epicuriously, but there should be some perspective about discussing its' toxicity, and/or suitability for any particular gardener/garden setting. There are various "toxins" in many parts of plants widely considered edible/food, and not all parts of every plant is edible. Tomatoes and potatoes come to mind. Tomato and potato leaves aren't considered edible because of the solanine. This is why potatoes must be stored in the dark or they turn green and can then cause indigestion because of the increase in solanine.

If one is in the US, P. americana is a native, an important food source for many birds. http://georgiawildlife.com/node/2793 This article has other interesting info, such as, "Pokeweed has long been thought to have medicinal value. At one time it was employed to cure everything from boils to acne. Today, pokeberry is being researched as a possible treatment for cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, a chemical found in pokeberry juice has been used to successfully treat cancerous tumors in laboratory mice. The chemical is also being tested to determine if it can protect cells from HIV and AIDS.

Remarkably, the lowly pokeberry may help solve the energy crisis. Researchers at Wake Forest University have discovered that a dye derived from pokeberries doubles the efficiency of fibers used in solar cells to absorb solar energy.


The sprouts pull easily the first year, not difficult to keep mature plants from occurring by pulling or hoe'ing/scuffling sprouts while young and delicate. Boiling water poured on a mature root will kill it. After watching plant ID forums since they were invented, I've seen that most people who ask for pokeweed ID make the effort to say something about how attractive they think it is. In all my years of gardening in both OH and AL, I've seen pokeweed sprouts in my own garden maybe a total of a dozen times.

There's also the dye thing that's had varying degrees of prevalence throughout history, and something people still like to do. One of my fav things about this plant is the dis-proven myth that the Declaration of Independence was written in pokeberry ink. No less charming even if not true, because it could have been.

I was thrilled to get a scroungy little sprout in our front yard last year. It was a puny thing and I guess it died because it's not back. If anyone is looking for a rationalization to keep their pokeweed plant, that grabbed their attention enough to try to ID it, there are plenty.


Good job Tiffany! Well researched and you made a great argument in favor of pokeweed. My 22 year old daughter actually spins & dyes her own wool. She has used poke berry too
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