Thursday, September 4, 2014
In praise of pokeweed
Phytolacca americana L.!
You are reviled in the online gardening discussions,
Weedy, invasive, hard to control
But if you're a weed, you're just doing what weeds do:
Growing where you can, when you can, conspiring with the birds to spread
And like your friends the catbirds and mockingbirds you were here first
(Along with poison ivy, virginia creeper, so many other "weeds")
You even predate the honeybees on your flowers (they came with us!)
So who are we to say you don't belong?
This land is your land, it always was:
Even Linnaeus recognized that you are as americana as we are, if not more.
As for me...
You take me back to when I was just a kid (albeit an odd child)
Using the beautiful magenta juice from your berries as ink
And when other teenagers were experimenting with marijuana
I was experimenting with a "weed" of another kind,
One that grew taller than me, huge leaves hinting at the tropics
But with tender spring shoots;
(My mother never knew if these things were going to kill me--
the shaggy mane mushrooms made her especially nervous,
although they were among the few mushrooms I could confidently identify--
but pokeweed, you're certainly poisonous if not prepared properly,
or so they say, I never tried boiling you only once; I wasn't that adventurous)
And with a bit of butter you were delicious.
[After writing this, I came across this very nice blog post on the same subject at Nadia's Backyard: Pokeweed, American (Phytolacca americana): The Jekyll and Hyde Plant]