Saturday, November 3, 2007

What is this?

Can anyone tell me what this is? It's some kind of crazy huge weed that shows up in our yard every year at the end of summer/beginning of fall. It's about 3-4 feet in height (yes, we let it get that high! Although John and I have differing views than some of our neighbors on exactly how long you can go before you must cut the stuff growing on your property, this thing does grow in a part of the yard that is not really "lawn" per se), it has a deep cranberry colored stalk as well as stems, large hosta looking leaves and, to the kids utter delight, these dark purple berries that grow like grapes. The kids have been warned, beyond what is reasonable probably, that these beautiful purple orbs are VERY POISONOUS. I don't know that to be true since I don't know what the heck this plant is, but it's obviously better to land on the side of the living than the alternative. Although I would like to be able to identify this plant by it's correct name to my children , they could care less. These berries have been the secret ingredient in their huge pot of mud soup, mini bombs thrown at an apparent enemy, and a general all purpose fun thing to squish at every opportunity. I, personally, would love to use it as a natural dye in something because its color is truly exquisite. But I would also love to know what it is. Anyone? Just post it in the comments section if you know.


  1. It's Poke! Ever heard of "poke salad?" (or "Poke Salad Annie?") I didn't know about the berries, but the roots are very poisonous. The leaves and upper part of the stem have been eaten around here for generations, although these days there are some folks who say that the entire plant is toxic and shouldn't be eaten at all no matter how many batches our mothers and grandmothers cooked and ate. The botanical name is phytolacca. It's used in a number of natural remedies (some of which I have in my cabinet right now.) I just did a bit of research on it, and apparently the Native Americans used the berries for dye.


  2. When I hear dye I think diapers or the awesome tie dye I got one year for Christmas from a certain special someone! but that shows where my head is at right now! You could get some plain white shirts, dye them with tea ( for a tan use plain ol lipton, for more yellow use camimole (sp)) and then you could squish the bead on or crush them on a rock and paint the juice on with a feather or stick for an indian like project. You could try and boil them up and let the shirts set in it as well....