Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Now These Are Bird Berries

It was rainy today and by the time the weather cleared it was really too late to get out gardening tools so Ed and I took a walk with the camera.  I even got a shot of a little blue sky above this large, interesting looking plant. It is Phytolacca americana, pokeweed.  Sometimes it is called inkberry.  I came from a family of wild berry pickers.   When we were kids Mom simply told us that some berries are good to pick, but some are bird berries and those should  be avoided.  Pokeweed berries are definitely bird berries.  We never picked them.  We never tried to make ink either.   Many times my Dad told the story of his boyhood pokeberry ink.  He mixed it in a bottle in the attic and left it there.  When it fermented and overflowed under pressure, a large magenta stain appeared on the downstairs ceiling.  He got in big trouble for that and we always considered it a cautionary tale.

I have to admit these shiny berries and their magenta stems look attractive.  Even the thick  main stems of this plant are that incredible color. It is amazing to me that some people eat the new shoots of this plant in the spring.  To me anything that has to be boiled in two changes of water to remove the poison before it can be eaten is not worth the risk.  They say it tastes like asparagus so I'll just have that.

This is a native plant and it is very happy here.  I count 5 little pokeweeds in this picture. The plant self seeds with abandon.  It also gets help from the birds, foxes and coyotes all of whom eat the berries.  Those same berries would make people very sick and the seeds, stems and roots are really poisonous. Established plants have a huge tap root.  We try to eliminate the small plants when we see them. Native or not we don't want so many of them here.

Some sharpshooting bird was really on target hitting this edging stone dead center.  It's a nice color isn't it?

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