I saw this plant while chasing butterflies, so I grabbed a few quick
photos and ran off after a butterfly. I posted a thumbnail with no ID,
and Tony O was kind enough to email me:
"This looks like Polk weed to
me. We cook it for greens here every spring. The ripe Polk berries
(Seeds) sometimes called ink berries, turn purple when ripe. Birds love
them, but don't eat them, as they are poison to people. They were used
as ink to write with years ago. The native American Indians used them as
one of the things to color their clothes, tents etc. with. I hope this
I have a friend in N.J. that has variegated Polk plants. Do butterflies
have any use for that plant?"
No Tony, I haven't seen a butterfly use it, but this plant isn't in my
yard so I don't see it often. In fact, after you identified it as Polk
Weed, I went back to take more pictures but the
had grown out over where it was, and the Rosary Pea
had grown so much I had to pull it off the Polk Weed to photograph it. I'll keep an eye on
it to see if any butterfly uses it, but nothing yet...
I looked up Polk Weed after
your email because I'm curious about local edible plants, but this one
is a bit too scary for me to try. Apparently you have to prepare it VERY
carefully, and only eat the small young leaves, or you poison yourself.
I've seen this plant called Pokeweed & Polk Weed. When I looked it up I came up
with Phytolacca americana L. and Phytolacca decandra, so I went to the
of Florida Vascular Plants
to try to figure out which one I had.
They list several names, including decandra, as synonyms of americana.
On the bright side, they list it as a Florida Native plant. So many of
the neat plants that I find aren't that it's refreshing to find one that
is. I considered bringing seeds home, but first I want to find out
what's chewing it up; the leaves look like Swiss cheese.