Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, might not be the showiest winter perennial but just wait until we get to the warm weather shots. Pokeberry, also known as plain old Poke, has big, beautiful green leaves and strands of dark purple berries on raspberry umbrels.
From the berries to the leaves to the taproot, Poke is poisonous. But, birds can gulp down those berries with abandon as they pass the seeds whole.
The berry juice was in the past used for a ink. In fact, the US Declaration of Independence was written with Poke ink.
Out on a ten mile hike with his Boy Scout patrol, the patrol leader suddenly heard screaming from above. As he looked up, he spied one of his scouts with blood pouring down his arm. As a good leader, he yelled for the first aid kit as he went scrambling up the hill--only to find the scout rolling on the ground in hysterical laughter. It turned out that my scout had crushed pokeberries all over his arm and was having a great laugh at my expense!