Entry Detail

Phytolacca americana L.
pokeweed


Entry Type:  
Species
Scientific Name:  
Phytolacca americana L.
Common Name:  
pokeweed
Myaamia Name:  
maamilaniwiaahkwia
Description:  

Myaamia Archival Sources  
Reference Source Reference Type Archival Data Comments
Rafert, S. 1989 Use - Food/Medicine 

"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 the 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".  Pokeweed greens were eaten by Lamoine Marks, and repared 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", a spring tonic that could be a purgative.

Aatotankiki myaamiaki 1998-2006 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. Barbara's recipe for poke is given in this article.

Aatotankiki myaamiaki 1998-2006 Use - Food 

Daryl Baldwin found a reference to use of Phytolacca decandrea, the older name for Phytolacca americana, which used to be cooked on the fireplace.

Miami Tribe of Oklahoma Archives Use - Food 

"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 ain't seen it since we left Indiana, long years ago. But I saw it growing there".

Gonella, M.P 2003-2006 Use - Food 

Mable Olds Leonard picked poke and wild onions to cook with.

Gonella, M.P 2003-2006 Use - Food 

"My mother [Hilda Faye Billington] and me gathered poke in Oklahoma, and I do in Utah".

Olds, J., Olds, D. and D. Tippman 1999 Use - Food 

Greens gathered and eaten.

Rafert, S. 1989 Use - Food 

"It had to be gathered before it was about 15 inches tall. Beyond that stage it became poisonous."

Gonella, M.P 2003-2006 Use - Medicine 

"It was used as a spring tonic for cleansing the body. The young leaves of poke, curly dock and lamb's quarter's were gathered near my house, mixed together and cooked with vinegar".

Gonella, M.P 2003-2006 Use - Food/Medicine/Technology 

Young shoots of pokeweed are eaten. Mature berries are used as temporary, non-washable, paint, or dried berries used to deworm dogs.

Rafert, S. 1978 Use - Food 

" . . . many said it was poison and wouldn't eat them, but they did".

Dunn, J.P. ca. 1900 Use - Food 

"[We] used shoots of pokeweed with other greens".

Dunn, J.P. ca. 1900 Use - Medicinal 

"use [berries] for medicine, except sometimes pulverized boiled root [used] for poultice".  "used for rheumatism--soak berries in whiskey".

Dunn, J.P. ca. 1900 Related Info 

"mamílanéwiákwĭ, mamílanéwĭákwĭa" pokeweed, poke plant; "mamílanéwĭa" pokeberry

Dunn, J.P. ca. 1900 Use - Technology 

"Indians used pokeberries for paint, but did not eat young shoots".

Dunn, J.P. 1919 Use - Food 

"They use the shoots of poke, but Godfroy's 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".

Tar Creek Superfund Report 2003 Use - Food 

Greens of the pokeweed are gathered.

Botanical Sources  
Reference Source Reference Type Data Comments
Gleason, H.A. and Cronquist, A. 1991 Habitat

Occurs in fields, fencerows and damp woods.

Related Sources  
Reference Source Reference Type Data Comments
Bush, L. L 1996  

Fresh pokeweed material was recoverd from an early 19th century Myaamia village site at the forks of the Wabash River (Fort.Wayne), 1795-1812 (Ehler Site).

Tulsa World Newspaper 2003  

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.

Dunn, J.P. ca. 1900  

Dunn documented Gabriel Godfroy saying that poke, mushrooms or wild lettuce were 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]".

Aatotankiki myaamiaki 1998-2006  

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.

Gatschet, A.S. ca. 1895  

"mamilaníwia", pokeberry