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Identifying Unknown Plants/Maroon stems and black berries.


This is growing in spots on the fence bordering our backyard. I have a nephew who plays back there and who loves to inspect things by tasting them. I want to make sure the plants aren't toxic.

Hi Justin,

That's pokeweed (phytolacca americana).  When it's young, before the stem turns purple, it's edible - poke salad.  It becomes toxic as it gets older - but it's mainly the root (which is a large tuber 6-12 inches or more underground.  The berries are only slightly toxic.  He would have to eat a lot of it for it to be life threatening.  

A good thing to keep on hand is activated charcoal.  CVS pharmacy carries it OTC under the name of "charco-caps".  Activated charcoal is a universal antidote to most ingested toxins.  It's worth having, even if you've only eaten at McDonalds on a bad day.  They work great on any stomach upset.  I give them to my dog when he's eaten something vile out in the yard and gets diarrhea and vomiting.  Clears it right up.  

LSU co-op extension has a great (and free) booklet called "Posionous Plants of the Southern United States".  They are located in Knapp Hall on Highland Rd. in Baton Rouge.  If you call them, they will probably mail you a copy.  If not, get back in touch with me and I'll get you one.

Identifying Unknown Plants

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Susan Tabor


I can identify most weeds, ornamentals,and wild plants by description or photo. If it is completely unknown to me, I can usually type info into a botanical search engine and find it. I am familiar with unusual plants from all over the world.


Thirty-five years of research and experience in horticulture.

You already have that information. I'm just listing myself in a new catagory.

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