Pokeweed: Facts, Folklore and Warnings

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

img_4958Pokeweed (Phytolacca Americana) is drawing attention in these closing days of summer. This colorful native plant with a controversial cultural and folk history has even poked up without invitation at the edge of the manicured Cranbrook Gardens.

Not many plants have a song, but this one does. In 1969 Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie” became an instant country hit with memorable melancholy lyrics describing the lifestyle and family misfortunes of Annie, a Louisiana woman who gathered the leaves of pokeweed to feed her family.“She’d go out in the evenings to pick a mess of it… Carry it home and cook it for supper, ’cause that’s about all they had to eat.”  As for her biggest misfortunes; a gator ate her granny. Continue reading