Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pokeweed, get your own place.

Pokeweed is like the uninvited guest who knocks on your door, throws himself on your sofa, eats all your Doritos, drinks all your baby Cokes, adjusts your thermostat, and then has the nerve to ask what's for dinner.

Truly there is not hyperbole enough to express how unwelcome is an invasion of pokeweed. While I am disheartened by how the black-eyed Susans have magically renewed themselves after I just purged them not three months ago (that's a rant for another post), it is the pokeweed that has me seeing spots before my eyes. What is UP with this stuff?

Who invited you?

For those of you lucky enough to not be in the know, American pokeweed is an evil succulent perennial weed that goes from sprout to 6 feet tall in about an hour and a half. (Possibly I'm exaggerating, but check out the details on Wikipedia; I'm not that far off.) When the weed is still small (i.e., under 2 feet tall), it can be pretty easily pulled out of the ground, root and all.

But once it gets bigger, fuggedabowdit. The root goes DEEP and it does NOT want to leave. You may yank at the monster and snap off the plant, but the root remains to torment you another day.

I never had a problem with pokeweed until last year. Last year, you may recall, was The Lost Summer, in which the yard and garden were left to fend for themselves while we dealt with various family issues/personal illness/etc. Pokeweed, ever looking for an opportunity to expand its territory, quietly invaded when we weren't looking. And now I fear we'll be paying the price for years to come.

If only pokeweed had some practical use! If only it were edible. Frankly, it looks delicious: succulent green and pink stems, beautiful black berries--pokeweed looks like it was made for being baked into yummy pies.

Alas, the entire thing is poison poison poison. Some folks DO eat the very young leaves, but to do so safely you have to boil them three times to leach out the poison (no, really), and who wants to go to that sort of trouble and then possibly still poison themselves?

I guess you can let the nice folks at Allen do all
that prep for you.

I can't deny that pokeweed is pretty. In the park land across the street from us, it sprouts up every summer with its colorful stems and beautiful berries. Before it took up residence in my yard, I was actually an admirer.

But what's pretty in the woods is not so pretty in the middle of my vegetable garden, or muscling in on my flower beds. Thus I find myself laboring to stem the spread of this insidious interloper before it completely takes over. If you don't hear from me in a week, please alert the authorities.


  1. A pretty weed. Those are the worst kind because somewhere an unsuspecting new gardener is letting it take over! We have bindweed to deal with the same way. I'm surrounded by neighbors who do nothing to control it. Sigh.

  2. omg, Gardener, I just Google-image-searched bindweed and... I've got that, too! when it first appears I was all "oh, pretty morning glory!" until it started strangling everybody else in The Big Bed.

  3. My yard goes through pokeweed cycles. I've had a few yesrs without much and I thought I was free of it last year. But this spring I've been pulling up seedlings *everywhere*! Pesky birds with their purple poop....