Last night I stood in front of the pokeweed patch that will soon be looming overhead. It seems just the other day when I searched out Spring's first signs. Before long, Pokeweed berries will be busting with ripeness, assurance of summer's end and bounty.
From Wild Flowers Worth Knowing:
"When the Pokeweed is "all on fire with ripeness," as Thoreau said; when the stout vigorous stem (which he coveted for a cane), the large leaves, and even the footstalks, take on splendid tints of crimson lake, and the dark berries hang heavy with juice in the thickets, then the birds, with increased hungry families, gather in flocks as a preliminary step to travelling southward. Has the brilliant, strong-scented plant no ulterior motive in thus attracting their attention at this particular time? Surely! Robins, flickers, and downy woodpeckers, chewinks and rose-breasted grosbeaks, among other feathered agents, may be detected in the act of gormandizing on the fruit, whose undigested seeds they will disperse far and wide. "
And here Doctor Laurence presents a rather uncomfortable assessment of Pokeweed's medicinal abilities:
"All parts of the plant possess acrid and somewhat narcotic properties. The juice of the fresh plant, or a strong decoction of the root, applied locally, may strongly irritate the skin, especially if tender or abraded. Taken internally it produces nausea, vomiting, and purging, and, in overdoses, acro-narcotic poisoning. It has been employed with more or less satisfactory results in a great variety of cutaneous affections, and in rheumatism, especially when chronic or of a syphilitic origin. There is little doubt that, in view of the uncertainty which at present exists regarding it, this plant would well repay further careful experimentation."
Blanchan, Neltje. Wild Flowers Worth Knowing. New York, 1917. 47. Web. Google Book Search. 14 Jul 2009.
Johnson, Laurence. A Manual of the Medical Botany of North America. New York, 1884. 234. Web. Google Book Search. 14 Jul 2009.