Species Detail

Phytolacca americana L.
Pokeweed


Scientific Name:  
Phytolacca americana L.
Common Name:  
Pokeweed
Myaamia Name:  
maamilaneewiaahkwia
Uses:  
Food, Medicinal, Technology
Harvest Seasons:  
Summer, Spring
Habitats:  
Undetermined
Locations:  
Geboe Property, Liebert Property, Grant Property
Growth Forms:  
Herb, Vine

Myaamia Archival Sources  
Phytolacca americana L.
Reference Source Reference Type Archival Data Comments
No Reference Specified Use - Food  shoots eaten as greens. "mamilanewiakwi"
No Reference Specified Use - Medicinal  berries soaked in whiskey used to treat rheumatism; and pulverized root used as a poultice. "use berries for medicines; for rheumatism--soak berries in whiskey"; "sometimes pulverized boiled root for [used] for poultice"
No Reference Specified Use - Technology  berries used for paint. "Indians used pokeberries for paint"
No Reference Specified Use - Food  eaten as greens. " . . . many said it was poison and wouldnt eat them but they did."
No Reference Specified Use - Food  eaten as greens; "Pokeweed was always used by the Indians . . . pokeweed was a very important green." "It was made almost identical to the way you would could asparagus. And tasted a lot like milkweed or asparagus." "You used mostly just the stem. . . only th every smallest of the leaves would be used. All greens were considered a tonic [food to cleanse or protect against illness]. . . In the spring of the year after a winter of eating dried fruits; dried foods; and meat; they felt that they needed something else; a purge; that could be purgative; that could be used for that purpose."
No Reference Specified Use - Food  eaten as greens. "They use the shoots of poke; but Godfroys belief was that they did not use poke; mushrooms; or wild lettuce; until they learned to eat them from the whites. He was probably wrong as to this; as the instruction concerning the use of native plants came the other way"
No Reference Specified Use - Food  Mable Olds Leonard picked poke and wild onions to cook with
No Reference Specified Use - Food  roots of poke were cooked and eaten. "They had what they call poke potatoes. That was a potato; but the name was poke root potato . . . something similar to a sweet potato when you first take it out of the ground before the skin has got dark; kind of a cream color . . . Mama said she cooked on a fireplace when she was about six years old. . . I think they said it came from Canada. I aint seen it since we left Indiana; long years ago. But I saw it growing there"
No Reference Specified Use - Food  shoots gathered and eaten. "My mother and her gathered poke in Oklahoma and I do in Utah"
No Reference Specified Use - Food  young leaves gathered and cooked as greens. " It was used as a spring tonic for cleansing the body. The young leaves of poke; curly dock and lambs quarters were gathered near my house; mixed together and cooked with vinegar"
No Reference Specified Use - Food  eaten as greens
No Reference Specified Use - Food  greens gathered
No Reference Specified Use - Unknown  "mamilaniwai"; pokeweed
No Reference Specified Use - Food/Medicinal/Technolog  young shoots eaten; mature berries used as temporary; nonwashable; paint; dried berries used to deworm dogs
No Reference Specified Horticultural Info  " It had to be gathered before it was about 15 inches tall. Beyond that stage it became poisonous."
No Reference Specified Horticultural Info  Barbara Mullin and her mother; Julia Gamble Lankford would go out in late March and early April with brown bags and fill them with poke they found in uncultivated areas. "It has a large leaf. In spring the greens are tender and very good". It is plentiful where ditches have been bladed and cleared and any other vegetation has been removed. The berries; developing later; are noxious
Botanical Sources  
Phytolacca americana L.
Reference Source Notes Data Comments
No Reference Specified   Occurs in fields; fencerows and damp woods
Related Sources  
Phytolacca americana L.
Reference Source Notes Data Comments
No Reference Specified   The leaves of this plant are safe to eat if you boil and decant three times to remove the saponins. The spinach-like result is a good side dish, but don’t eat a lot of it per helping—about 5 tablespoonsful. Eat too much, and you could get mild diarrhea. I used to eat the young roots boiled with no effect, but some years later things seemed to go “gray.” Maybe I didn’t realize that I ought to decant three times or maybe I did but it was not enough. I eat only the leaves now. The word “poke” in pokeweed is from Virginian Algonquian pak ‘blood’ (from its dye), like Nanticoke pakahk ‘blood’ (Proto-Eastern Algonquian *pakaxkanwi ‘blood, red dye’, F. Siebert 1975).
No Reference Specified   Human-charred pokeweed material was recoverd from an early 19th century Miami village site at the forks of the Wabash River (Ft Wayne), 1795-1812 (Ehler Site).
No Reference Specified   Dunn documented Gabriel Godfroy saying that poke; mushrooms or wild lettuce wre not used by the Miami until the whites taught them how to use them. Dunn comments that "He was probably wrong as to this; as the instruction concerning the use of native plants came the other way [from the Indians to the whites]"
No Reference Specified   Pokeweed greens were eaten by Lamoine Marks. Prepared almost identical to asparagus or milkweed and tasted like them. Mostly just used the stem. Only the very smallest of the leaves would be used. Considered a tonic like all greens; Lamoine says; a spring tonic that could be a purgative
No Reference Specified   Barabara Mulllins recipe for poke
No Reference Specified   Daryl Baldwin found a reference to use of Phytolacca decandrea; older nomeclature for Phytolacca americana; which used to be cooked on the fireplace
No Reference Specified   Due to lead; cadmium and zinc contamination in the Tar Creek Superfund Sites watershed; around Miami; Oklahoma and the Miami Tribe of Oklahomas headquarters; Miami and other local tribal members worry that traditional gathering of food; medicine and CUSTOMS items may be contaminated. Fish; wild blackberries; sassafras; pokeweed; basket-making supplies and wild onions could have high concentrations of lead; as do the waters of nearby lakes; and it is not always successful keeping tribal members out of these areas. The Seneca-Cayugas berry dance could not be held; if all the wild blackberries and strawberries in the area are found to be contaminated