While George and I were walking yesterday evening, I came across some pokeweed. Now pokeweed isn't vile, but it is poisonous if ingested. This time of year though, I think the plant is almost pretty. Well, almost.
The first picture is a semi-mature cluster of berries. See how the stem is turning that bright purple color?
You have probably seen pokeweed. It can sometimes grow to 10 feet tall with its smooth fleshy stems and clusters of flowers that bear tiny fruit. As the fruit ripens, the clusters become heavy and drooping, resembling a grape bunch, and the stems holding the berries turn a bright red-purple.
This poisonous weed is often found in pastures, along fencerows and barnyards, in unfortunately close proximity to livestock. It's not very palatable, so most animals avoid it.
Here is a photo of the berries just beginning to burst forth from the flower.
All parts of the common pokeweed are toxic to both humans and animals. Roots are the most poisonous, leaves and stems not as severe, but the toxicity increases with maturity of the plant. Children are most frequently poisoned by eating the raw berries. Infants are especially sensitive and have died from eating only a few raw berries. So this is not a nice plant.
Above is a mature bunch of berries.
A few interesting tidbits about this roadside weed:
Supporters of President James Polk wore pokeweed twigs instead of campaign buttons during the 1845 campaign. And more importantly, medical researchers have isolated a protein (pokeweed antiviral protein or PAP) from pokeweed that is being used to try to inhibit the replication of the HIV virus in human cells.
I just found it interesting.
Allrighty then, that's it for my little biology lesson for the day.
Until tomorrow, my friends.