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Author Topic: Phytolacca americana  (Read 2382 times)

Paul T

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Phytolacca americana
« on: February 23, 2011, 11:54:11 AM »
Strange subject name I know, but this one is a rather unknown unknown.....

A cutting of this plant was at a local nursery.  I have no idea of how large the plant grows to, but I am assuming by the look of it that it is "probably" an annual.  It has small white flowers maybe 0.5cm wide and EVERY flower sets fruit it would appear.  The fruit matures at about 1cm wide, starting out green and ribbed and maturing to black and smooth.  The new growth stem is green, but ages to a reddish colour.  Many things about this cutting remind me of Amaranthus, but the flowers and berries are obviously wrong..... but maybe the comparison might help someone picture it.  It looks like that freshness of the Amaranthus, if you know what I mean.  Given the number of berries I am thinking it is likely a weed too, or at least around here.  Rather pretty though.

Any takers on it's identity?
« Last Edit: February 23, 2011, 11:00:24 PM by Paul T »
Cheers.

Paul T.
Canberra, Australia.
Min winter temp -8 or -9C. Max summer temp 40C. Thankfully, maybe once or twice a year only.

daveyp1970

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Re: Unknown unknown
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2011, 12:08:25 PM »
Paul i think it is Phytolacca americana
tuxford
Nottinghamshire

Paul T

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Re: Unknown unknown
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2011, 12:32:45 PM »
Looks spot on, Davey.  Thanks.

So much for being an annual, wikipedia says American Pokeweed is an herbaceous perennial to 10 feet tall.  :o  Herbaceous and up to 10 feet means that it grows at a phenomenal rate.  And apparently a major weed in some places as it is mostly poisonous.  I'm thinking that the nursery needs to advise the owner to remove it quick, before the berries get carried everywhere.  I'm guessing it is already too late to at least some degree.

Thanks heaps for the name.  Only 14 minutes for an ID..... this place is brilliant!!  ;D ;D
Cheers.

Paul T.
Canberra, Australia.
Min winter temp -8 or -9C. Max summer temp 40C. Thankfully, maybe once or twice a year only.

Paul T

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Re: Phytolacca americana
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2011, 11:04:34 PM »
Howdy again, All,

I've had private emails as well about this Phytolacca americana as well.  Apparently the sap is EXTREMELY toxic and can cause nasty dermatitis that resembles third degree burns.  I've given the name to the nursery where I saw it for ID, and warned them of it's invasive and poisonous qualities, as well as the sap irritation aspect.  I'm glad I didn't find it here, because I work without gloves in my garden most of the time.  :o

Thanks to all for their feedback on this.  I hope that whoever has it in their garden removes it promptly and that not too many of the berries have been dispersed already.  I just hope it doesn't get too established here, as it sounds like a horror to get rid of.

Thanks again. 8)
Cheers.

Paul T.
Canberra, Australia.
Min winter temp -8 or -9C. Max summer temp 40C. Thankfully, maybe once or twice a year only.

Stephenb

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Re: Phytolacca americana
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2011, 07:59:59 AM »
I remember visiting New Zealand many years ago and Phytolacca octandra or Inkweed was quite common, but invasive:   

http://www.hear.org/pier/species/phytolacca_octandra.htm

I don't know how you separate this one from P. americana, but the plant list gives P. americana var mexicana as a synonym, so it must be quite close.  I took some seeds with me back to Norway, being interested in edible plants and knowing that P. americana is widely used and considered by many in North America to be one of the tastiest vegetables out there. However, beware because it is a poisonous plant and one must know when to pick and prepare it - see, for example, the bottom of this page:  http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Pokeweed.html

P. octandra turned out not to be hardy, but I kept it going for a number of years in a pot...
Stephen
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Brian Ellis

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Re: Phytolacca americana
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2011, 10:18:48 AM »
I hope that whoever has it in their garden removes it promptly and that not too many of the berries have been dispersed already. 

I've been growing it for years Paul, it spreads a few seedlings round as the birds like it.  Never had any rash trouble, and I don't eat it ;) It almost always appears in large gardens that we visit and I think there are a large number of varieties judging by the inflorescences we see.  As far as I am concerned the only problem with it is that the foliage gets a bit shredded towards the end of the season.  It has a huge storage root too.
Brian Ellis, Brooke, Norfolk UK. altitude 30m Mintemp -8C

Paul T

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Re: Phytolacca americana
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2011, 11:09:33 AM »
Brian,

Given that it produces such a sheer number of berries, how aren't there more seedlings about?  Just the little cut stem in water at the nursery had probably 100 berries on it, and that was maybe 40cm long.  It must produce thousands each year, spread by birds.  Cottoneaster has gone crazy by the same method here and is now a declared weed as it is invading bushland.  My concern is that this too is going to escape and colonise.  Triffids anyone?  ;D ;D
Cheers.

Paul T.
Canberra, Australia.
Min winter temp -8 or -9C. Max summer temp 40C. Thankfully, maybe once or twice a year only.

Maggi Young

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Re: Phytolacca americana
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2011, 12:26:11 PM »
I am aware that the Phytolacca can be a major weed in some areas.... but this also equates, surely, to 'some climates' too? It seems not to be a pest inthe UK areas where it is grown..... just not ideal enough conditions for it to become rampant, I assume. 
Margaret Young in Aberdeen, North East Scotland Zone 7 -ish!

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Stephenb

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Re: Phytolacca americana
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2011, 01:49:02 PM »
I have this variegated cultivar, Silberstein (or speckled poke), but I'm unable to overwinter them here, so they now spend the winter in the cellar.
Stephen
Malvik, Norway
Eating my way through the world's 15,000+ edible species
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Tony Willis

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Re: Phytolacca americana
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2011, 05:44:49 PM »
This is a super plant with its berries in the autumn.As to being rampant we are just too wet and it never survives a winter here.We have tried it several times and would like to be able to grow it.
Chorley, Lancashire zone 8b

Ezeiza

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Re: Phytolacca americana
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2011, 07:03:28 PM »
It's been known for decades in Botanic Gardens to be a carrier for most known plant viruses without apparent symptoms. You can infect all sorts of plants from a single Phytolacca americana
Alberto Castillo, in south America, near buenos Aires, Argentina.

Brian Ellis

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Re: Phytolacca americana
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2011, 08:19:40 PM »
Brian,

Given that it produces such a sheer number of berries, how aren't there more seedlings about?  Just the little cut stem in water at the nursery had probably 100 berries on it, and that was maybe 40cm long.  It must produce thousands each year, spread by birds.  Cottoneaster has gone crazy by the same method here and is now a declared weed as it is invading bushland.  My concern is that this too is going to escape and colonise.  Triffids anyone?  ;D ;D

I think the answer is, as Maggi says, the climate, if we had a climate like yours they could well be a problem.
Brian Ellis, Brooke, Norfolk UK. altitude 30m Mintemp -8C

Hoy

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Re: Phytolacca americana
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2011, 08:46:28 PM »
I have grown a Phytolacca sp for several years here and it survives the winter without problems. That is till now - I do not know if it has withstood the frozen soil this winter which has been cold and without snow cover.
I do not think it is americana but a Chinese species grown from Chadwell seeds. It has not selfsowed although it set quantities of berries each fall.
Trond Hoy, gardening on the rainy west coast of Norway.

Brian Ellis

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Re: Phytolacca americana
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2011, 10:07:14 PM »
I have seen the new growth beginning on P.americana in our front garden, so it must survive -12℃
Brian Ellis, Brooke, Norfolk UK. altitude 30m Mintemp -8C

Stephenb

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Re: Phytolacca americana
« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2011, 07:15:17 AM »
This is a super plant with its berries in the autumn.As to being rampant we are just too wet and it never survives a winter here.We have tried it several times and would like to be able to grow it.

According to US sites, it should go down to -25 to -30C. However, I think Tony is right suggesting it doesn't like winter wet. I have a friend here who did manage to overwinter it and he was growing it in very sandy soil. Think I'll experiment this year and protect the root - I successfully overwinter Opuntias by growing on sand and keeping them dry in winter.
Stephen
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Eating my way through the world's 15,000+ edible species
Age: Lower end of the 20-25,000 day range