Pokeberry or Phytolacca americana grows in nearly any available spot of disturbed land in Arkansas. You will see it sprouting in fields, along hedges and near any pasture border. And when ripe those plump, nearly black berries look oh so sweet.
Don’t dare eat them though. Though the plant does have some medicinal properties, only a skilled practitioner should use this plant.
Historically, the plant has been used for Poke Salet, which is the green leaf boiled several times and mixed with other ingredients. According to some accounts, the leaf must be prepared this way or it will poison any who ingest it.
In Lowell, there are more pokeberry bushes than we know what to do with, though I know what I’d like to do with them–no I don’t do the Salet.
I have to admit the bush is beautiful while the berries are fully ripe, but to be honest the asthetic doesn’t ease my mind when children stop to look at those plump, black pearls.
So I think this year, the poke is going the way of the dead branches we just cut from the apple tree. Perhaps a public burning. That’s an idea.