Phytolacca octandra
(P. acinosa)

Pokeweed, Phytolacca octandra, photo © by Michael Plagens

Observed near Limuru Pond, Nairobi, Kenya. January 2014.

A shrubby plant, perhaps two meters tall, with elyptical leaves that are pubescent. Each flower has 12 stamens (dodecandra). Dark, purple-black berries follow. The plants are poisonous to livestock. The berries are eaten by birds and the viable seeds pass, thus spreading this non-native plant (probable origin, southern Asia and/or Latin America) to new locations.

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

More Information:

Kenya Natural History

Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 5 August 2014