If you see this plant pop up somewhere in your garden, be careful! This robust invader is American pokeweed, also known as pokeberry, and poke salad. Native to the eastern U.S. it’s spreading in parts of California including Marin backyards. Left on its own, it can grow about 6 to 10 feet tall, produces long thin leaves, and pretty clusters of flowers that produce purple black berries.
Although sometimes eaten, the entire plant is poisonous. The leaves and stems of young pokeweed plants can be ingested only after repeated blanching; without proper preparation, pokeweed can cause a variety of symptoms, including death in rare cases.
Pokeweed is spread by seed and often sprouts in areas where birds roost. The best way to prevent the spread of this weed is by carefully monitoring areas under trees, along fence rows, and other bird perches. Hand pulling is effective on small plants, but pokeweed forms large tuberous roots that can resprout if not removed. Click here to learn more about this invasive plant.