Tokyo Food Safety Information Center » Good things to know »  Poisonous plants easily mistaken for harmless ones » American pokeweed (Phytolaccaceae)

American pokeweed (Phytolaccaceae)

Perennial naturalized large plant originating in North America with a fat straight reddish purple stem, that grows up to 1-2 meters. It blooms from June to September with spikes dangling from branch tips. The fruit is round and black when ripe, it contains a dark purplish-red fluid. Roots are thick and burdock like. Flower of pokeweed that is similar to this plant blooms facing upwards but it is likewise a poisonous plant.


Habitat It grows naturally on mountains and fields, roadsides, in uncultivated land and has turned into weeds.
Parts of the plant that may be ingested accidentally. Fruit, roots. There are many cases of accidental ingestion since it is similar to “pickled pokeweed” sold on the market. The product sold as “pickled pokeweed” are pickles from Japanese thistle (Asteraceae family) root, a completely different plant.
Symptoms Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.
Venomous constituents Phytolaccatoxin, etc.

American pokeweed

American pokeweed fruit

Left: burdock (edible) and
right: American pokeweed (poisonous) roots


Bureau of Public Health, Tokyo Metropolitan Government
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