By Donna Williamson
Those plants we see growing on the edges of our property, or in that place we never find time to “weed” may just be, well, something for which we should be thankful. This is certainly the case with the botanical jewel known as “pokeweed.”
Pokeweed is beautiful and dramatic.
With rich, dark purple berries and magenta stems, this five to nine foot tall, well-branched and lush beauty with big, lance-shaped leaves is a star in the fall garden. We often buy plants that will have this kind of presence in the garden – think Brugsmansia or Angel’s Trumpet, elephant ears, canna. But, we can have this one free!
Pokeweed is an excellent source of food.
The berries provide a high-carbohydrate, low-fat, good protein form of nutrition for migrating songbirds in the fall. Good for birds that stay around as well – you are unlikely to see the berries remain for too long once ripe.
Pokeweed is native.
Pokeweed is an East Coast native typically growing where soil has been disturbed and dormant seeds have been brought to the surface. It loves a well-drained, sunny location with a bit of moisture and grows well throughout Virginia.
The Brits grow pokeweed as a specimen plant!
Those folks interested in emulating those beautiful British gardens could feel at home growing pokeweed – sadly, it has become invasive in Europe.
Donna Williamson is a master gardener, garden designer, and garden coach. She has taught gardening and design classes at the State Arboretum of Virginia, Oatlands in Leesburg, and Shenandoah University. Author of The Virginia Gardener’s Companion: An Insider’s Guide to Low-Maintenance Gardening in Virginia, contact Donna at dwfinegardening.com, 540-877-2002.