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American Pokeweed is a large semi-succulent herbaceous perennial plant growing up to 10 feet (3 metres) in height.
It is native to eastern North America, the Midwest, and the Gulf Coast, with more scattered populations in the far West. Broadly distributed in fields and waste places, and usually found in edge habitats. This one was spotted at the Silver Bluff Audubon Center near Jackson (Aiken County), SC.
It is also known as Virginia poke, American nightshade, cancer jalap, coakum, garget, inkberry, pigeon berry, pocan, pokeroot, pokeweed, pokeberry, redweed, scoke, red ink plant and chui xu shang lu (in Chinese medicine). Sometimes the plant is also referred to as poke sallet (or polk salad). Parts of this plant are highly toxic to livestock and humans, and it is considered a major pest by farmers. Nonetheless, some parts can be used as food, medicine, or poison if properly prepared. The plant has a large white taproot, green or red stems, and large, simple leaves. White flowers are followed by purple to almost black berries, which are a good food source for songbirds such as gray catbird, northern cardinal, brown thrasher, and northern mockingbird.