Monday, August 20

You May Save a Life

A friend of mine moved into a new house last year. This year she discovered something growing fairly rapidly in her backyard. I told her that if it was growing that well in this drought, chances are pretty good that it is a weed. Last week she told me it was sprouting berries. I told her "It's a weed. Don't eat it, get rid of it." Today she told me they looked awfully tasty and would I please look at the pictures she took and tell her for sure if it's a weed. I told her that if they were okay to eat the birds and the squirrels would have had them gone by now because it's probably a weed. I should tell you that she is not native to the U.S. and so these questions arise periodically. Anyway, she sent me some photos and I sent her back an email saying that I'm even more sure that IT'S A WEED, and ALMOST CERTAINLY POISONOUS. In fact it looks familiar. I was thinking sumac, but it's been so long I don't remember for sure what it looks like.

So if you folks would please take a look and identify this for me, I would appreciate it. See, the thing is now almost taller than she is and she's a tall woman. I figure if she's let it grow this long I'm going to have my hands full convincing her. Of course if it's really that tall, she's going to have her hands full getting rid of it.


Sheryl said...

That's not sumac. I have sumac in my yard (yeah it's poisonous but I can never remember if it's the giant sumac or little one and I think it's pretty)
This looks familiar. The good news is it's not what I was thinking from your description - deadly nightshade. I suppose it could be a variety but GP will probably have a detailed description of this plant.

Sheryl said...

I know why it looks familiar. There's a house down the street that has an arbor covered in vines that drop berries down like this, almost a faux grape. Birds don't eat theirs but they harvest them in the fall. Regardless, I wouldn't recommend eating the berries. I'm really not that adventurous

Margaret said...


I don't know what the official name for this plant is, but in the south, we refer to a young plant like this as a "poke salad" plant. When young, it's edible. When it gets big enough to have berries, it'll make people VERY sick. And since I never learned the cutoff size, we just never ate it.
(Of course, I learned this from my ex-hubby..who usually had his facts straight...usually...)

But still, don't eat it.

McB said...

Well, as you can see it's not a vine so I'm thinking not the same thing your neighbors have, CMS.

In my experience, if there is anything edible growing in your yard, chances are the bugs and birds will get to it before you can.

And isn't the tomato a relative of nightshade?

GatorPerson said...

It's pokeweed, aka jimsonweed, of the nightshade family just as tomato, pepper, eggplant, and potato are.

Cut that sucker down to about 8 inches, Give the cut junk to the city - don't keep it. Make sure the berries go to the trask, NOT INTO YOUR YARD. Buy some Roundup and squirt it on the rest of the plant. Do that every 2 weeks until you're sure it's dead.

I've got pokeweed, and it's a monster to get rid of.

McB said...

Thank you, CBs. GP, I sent her your comments as well as a link to a web page about pokeweed.

Sheryl said...

So I was right in the nightshade family originally. It's interesting to me that it looks more like a faux grape than our variety of nightshade(we have tiny little red berries that come have a pretty purple flower)
What else ya got McB? I like this plant identifying game, even if I do suck at it.

Louisa said...

Yep, it looks just like the photo of poke salad that Google image has.

I knew it wasn't poison sumac, which is very pretty and grows very well in bar ditches in North Texas.

We did eat poke salad (which is properly called poke sallet, if memory serves) but never as salad. It has to be boiled and the first water drained off and then rinsed, just like acorns.

Poison sumac is very pretty, but it'll sure do a job on your skin if you touch it.

Mary said...

Why "poke" weed? Is it a pokey grower? If you stand too close, does it poke you in the eye?

urwxei - useful phrase, assuming you ever need to text message someone about looking too waxy.

orangehands said...

it is pretty. course, i think dandelions are pretty too, and they're a weed.

McB said...

Weeds are in the eye of the beholder. The main reason she has let it grow this long is because she wanted to see what it became. And now she really likes the contrast of the berry color against the red stalk.