Growing to 12 ft in clearings of damp woodlands from
Maine to Florida and west to Mexico, this perennial with purple
stalks and large lance-shaped green leaves bears fruits in clusters
of small black-purple berries. Poisonous and staining red when handled.
specs: Thin to 4 ft.
Young poke shoots are cooked and eaten like asparagus.
Dried root is traditionally used as an antiviral and anti-inflammatory
for auto-immune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis. All parts
are violently toxic; always cook young leaves and shoots before
eating. Do not use during pregnancy. Sap causes contact dermatitis
and chromosomal damage; berries are hazardously enticing to children.
Use only under supervision of trained practictioner.
(Photo © Steven Foster)