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noun, plural: pokeweeds

A tall plant native to North America, with a poisonous taproot, green or red stem, broad simple leaves, white flowers, and juicy purple to black berries.


The root and seeds of the plant are poisonous. It is considered as a plant pest by some farmers. Nonetheless, it is being used in medicine for its anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects. It is also used in immunological studies for its mitogenic effects.

Scientific name: Phytolacca americana

Other common names:

  • American nightshade
  • cancer jalap
  • coakum
  • garget
  • inkberry
  • pigeon berry
  • pocan bush
  • poke root
  • pokeberry
  • red ink plant
  • redweed
  • scoke

Word origin: poke » variation of puccoon (i.e. pokeberries and puccoon roots were both sources of red dye) + weed » Middle English, from Old English wēod (herb, grass, weed).

Related term: