Observed at Eldoret, Kenya. December 2013.
This plant grows vine-like up and over other, larger, woody plants or onto fences. The shiny green leaves are elyptical with the tip narrowed into a fine point. The flowers are small and white; they are arrayed into many-flowered, vertical spikes. Each flower has 12 stamens (dodecandra). Dark, purple-black berries follow. The plants are poisonous to livestock.
The berries and other portions contain saponins, chemicals which can function as detergents and have been used for their cleaning ability as in laundering clothes. These are also the highly toxic component that have been employed as a poison for fishing and for destroying snails that are a host to bilharzia, the cause of schistosomiasis.
Phytolaccaceae -- Pokeweed Family
Kenya Natural History
Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 11 April 2014