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- What is it?
- First aid
What is it?
What is pokeweed?
Leaves, stem and berries of the pokeweed plant. Photo by Laurie Warnock, NNEPC
Pokeweed is the common name used to refer to the poisonous plant Phytolacca americana. The berries of this plant are often known as pokeberries.
Pokeweed is a perennial plant that grows in fields, damp thickets, open woods, along roads and sometimes as a weed in yards or gardens. It ranges from 3 to 10 feet tall, with reddish or purple stems and green leaves up to a foot in length. It has white flowers that bloom from July to September and shiny, dark purple berries.
While some people eat pokeweed after boiling it multiple times, or use it as an herbal remedy, this is not recommended due to the plant’s toxicity. All parts of the plant are poisonous to both humans and animals, but especially the root. The plant is poisonous both to eat and to touch.
What happens if someone eats pokeweed or pokeberries?
Eating any part of the pokeweed plant can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. These symptoms may take as long as 2 or 3 hours to appear. In severe cases, these symptoms can lead to dehydration.
Mouth irritation and drooling are also possible symptoms.
What happens if some touches a pokeweed plant?
Skin contact with pokeweed may cause skin irritation, such as a rash.
What should I do if someone has swallowed pokeweed or a pokeberry?
If someone has eaten part of a pokeweed plant:
- Take all the pieces you can out of the person’s mouth.
- Give them a few sips of water or milk.
- Call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222, chat online, or text POISON to 85511 for further steps you may need to take.
What should I do if someone has touched a pokeweed plant?
- Wash the affected skin gently but thoroughly with soap and water. It’s a good idea to wash any clothing that touched the plant, as well.
- If the person has a rash or other skin irritation, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222, chat online, or text POISON to 85511.
How can I prevent poisonings from pokeweed?
- Avoiding eating pokeweed and pokeberries. While some people eat pokeweed on purpose, even multiple rounds of boiling cannot guarantee you will be safe from poisoning.
- Teach children to ask before touching or eating any plants or berries.
- If you have pokeweed on your property, consider removing it, especially if you have young children or outdoor pets.
- If you are unsure what a plant is, try taking it to a local greenhouse, garden center, nursery or agricultural extension office to see if you can have it identified.
- Wash your hands and clothing after working in the garden or walking in the woods. Wear gloves if you are going to be handling pokeweed or an unidentified plant.
Last Updated: Tuesday May 17th 2022