Pokeweeds are herbs growing from 1 to 10 ft tall, although specimens as tall as 14 ft have been observed. They have single alternate leaves, pointed at the end, with crinkled edges. The stems are often pink or red. The flowers are greenish-white, in long clusters at the ends of the stems. They develop into dark purple berries. Some pokeweeds are also grown as ornamental plants, mainly for their attractive berries; a number of cultivars have been selected for larger fruit panicles.
Pokeweed grows in rich, moist soil in part sun in distributed soil. It's common around homes.
Pokeweed contains phytolaccatoxin and phytolaccigenin, which are poisonous to mammals. However, the berries are eaten by birds, which are not affected by the toxin because the small seeds with very hard outer shells remain intact in the digestive system and are eliminated whole. Ingestion of poisonous parts of the plant may cause severe stomach cramping, nausea with persistent diarrhea and vomiting, sometimes bloody, slow and difficult breathing, weakness, spasms, hypertension, severe convulsions, and death. However, consuming fewer than 10 uncooked berries is generally harmless to adults. Pokeweeds are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Giant Leopard Moth.