It’s toxic! If the sap touches your skin, it can burn. If you ingest the leaves, you might suffer a severe reaction. If you think these berries look delicious, think again – they will poison you. I think you get the picture – but what a beautiful picture it is, don’t you think? I am just entranced by the colours and shapes of the berries.
This is Phytolacca americana, the American pokeweed or American nightshade or just plain pokeweed, and I found it growing alongside the hydrangeas and rhododendrons in Cardiff’s Bute Park. It’s a herbaceous perennial that grows to a height of about 8 feet (2 metres) and is native to the USA, where it’s apparently considered a weed by the agricultural community. However, several species of bird and some small beasties are unaffected by its toxicity so enjoy an autumn feast on the berries. And, according to Mrs M. Grieve’s 1931 A Modern Herbal, various parts of the plant can be used for a range of natural remedies, from drenching cattle to treating chronic rheumatism and haemorrhoids. I think I’ll stick to admiring the berries!