Pokeweed: A Growing Weed Problem

Black pokeweed berries on red stem attached to shrub.
Ripe pokeweed berries (Credit: J Di Tomaso)
American pokeweed is a large weedy shrub also known as pokeberry, American nightshade, poke salad, and a variety of other names. It is native to the eastern U.S. but is spreading in parts of California. This weed can be found in many habitats and has increasingly been seen in backyard gardens and home landscapes.

Pokeweed can outcompete native or landscape plants, contaminate agricultural produce, and reduce forage for livestock. All parts of the plant, including the glossy purple-black berries, are poisonous to humans.

Pokeweed is spread by seed and often sprouts in areas where birds roost. The best way to prevent the spread of this weed is by careful monitoring areas under trees, along fence rows, and other bird perches. Hand pulling is effective on small plants, but pokeweed forms large tuberous roots that can resprout if not removed.

For details about identification and management of American pokeweed, see the new Pest Notes: Pokeweed, authored by UC Cooperative Extension advisor Scott Oneto.