A confession: I love pokeweed. Yes, I know it wants to be a tree; yes, I know it's poisonous; yes, I know it will take over, and that one little plant can send down a three-foot taproot in approximately half an hour. I've dug out enough of it over the years to be well aware of its thuggish propensities. But walking home today, this color demanded my attention.
As I approached, the color proved to belong to a fading but impressive stand of pokeweed, battling it out in a thicket of wild grapevine and tatarian honeysuckle.
Unlike the honeysuckle, pokeweed is at least a native thug, and a useful one. My mother's family used the berries for ink during the Depression and ate the young shoots as a spring tonic, and even when I was growing up we ate fried pokeweed as a spring treat. Pokeweed is also a bird magnet. This neighborhood thicket was filled with birds of various types--not generally visible because of the dense vegetation, but pokeweed is known to be favored by a variety of birds, including cardinals, bluebirds, phoebes, and cedar waxwings. Any plant that attracts cedar waxwings is okay in my book.
Besides, poke is beautiful. Its young leaves are an amazing shade of chartreuse, eyepopping with those purple stems, and its flower sprays are among my favorites. One plant in the thicket obviously doesn't quite realize that it's almost November, as it is attempting to put out at least one last bloom.
How could anyone not love a plant that grows anywhere, asks for no care, feeds bluebirds, and has THIS as its last hurrah?