Poke Weed

I’ve wondered where poke weed gets its name. I get the weed part, because it can grow like one, but where does the “poke” come from? If you know, please tell.

Actually, after looking at this picture again, I think I know. Never mind.

I’ve had a pretty little poke weed in the front flowerbed (planted by a bird or the wind) for several years. If I let it go to seed, I’ll have hundreds of little pokes, so I try to cut the berries before they drop. I usually end up having to pull some of the seedlings each spring, but they haven’t been too invasive. I keep it around, despite its weed status, because I think the berries are beautiful. I love to use them for texture in fresh flower arrangements.

This is what they look like when the flowers are just starting to turn into berries. They look like tiny green pumpkins. (If you really use your imagination.)

One of the seeds made its way to one of the backyard flowerbeds. The long, almond-shaped leaves are easy to recognize. I’m thinking I’ll just leave this one to do its thing until I have time to get something planted in this old tub.

I can always count on poke weed for summer berries to use in arrangements.

One thing I have to watch out for is when the berries start to ripen. They turn a rich purple-ish-black before they drop (pictured above with black and chartreuse potato vine). I haven’t ruined anything (yet), but I’m sure the berries would stain if they were to fall on the wrong surface. I’ve read that the berries were used for ink and dye back before Bic and Rit were around. According to Wikipedia (has to be true, right?), the ink was used by Civil War soldiers to write letters to home. I’m not sure if it’s true, but it’s interesting. Now you can buy your own poke berry ink on Etsy. For real. Or just make your own. I jest, but that really could be a good summer craft for kids. Let me know if you give it a try! (If you live nearby, I’ll donate the berries!)

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2 Responses to Poke Weed

  1. Ken Baker says:

    Read that “poke” was derived from an Algonquin Indian word “pakon” or “puccoon”, referring to a dye made from the dark berries.
    The young leaves can be eaten as “poke salad”, but you have to boil them THREE times, discarding the water each time. Otherwise, the whole plant is toxic.
    Just so ya know….. ;-) )

  2. Heather says:

    Lol! Love this post! The flower arrangements are beautiful! I have an idea, I’ll let you borrow my kids one day and y’all can try to make ink with your berries! What? Not a good idea?!

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