Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for American Pokeweed - Phytolacca americana   L.
Members of Phytolacca with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Caryophyllales » Family Phytolaccaceae
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DistributionThroughout the state, though apparently very scarce in the far northeastern corner.

This is a very widespread Eastern species, found in nearly every county in its range. It occurs from eastern Canada south to southern FL and west to most of TX.
AbundanceCommon to very common and widespread statewide, though uncommon in the far northeastern counties, where there is no specimen for four counties north of Albemarle Sound.
HabitatThis is a very wide-ranging species in habitats, usually in disturbed soil, where birds deposit seeds. It grows best in rich to mesic soils of wooded borders and moist clearings and wooded openings, often quickly invading treefall gaps in forests, for example. It also grows in farmyards and vacant lots, as well.
PhenologyBlooms from May to frost, with fruit ripening in fall.
IdentificationThis is a very familiar native, being essentially the most robust herb seen in most of the state. It has one to several stems from the base, each often 1-inch or more thick, and it grows to 6-9 feet tall. It has alternate and smooth leaves, lanceolate to nearly elliptic, about 6 inches long and 2 inches wide, at times larger than this. The flowers are in long racemes, spreading and then often drooping, from leaf axils. Each flower consists of 5 greenish to whitish sepals (but no petals); however, much more conspicuous are the dark purple berries that appear in fall, each about 2/5-inch across. These berries are favorite food items of birds such as American Robin and Gray Catbird. Along the coast grows the rare P. rigida. Check that species account for separation characters.
Taxonomic CommentsNone, though some references include varieties, probably with P. rigida as a variety. Weakley (2018) separates the latter as a good species.

Other Common Name(s)Often named simply as "Pokeweed", but with P. rigida being given species status, a common name for it must also be "xxxxxx Pokeweed". Thus, a modifier name for P. americana is recommended. Common Pokeweed is another suitable name.
State RankS5
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpFACU link
USACE-empFACU link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorrieSandhills Game Land, disturbed roadside clearing. 4 July 2009. RichmondPhoto_natural
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