Bureau of Environmental Services
Early Detection/Rapid Response program
Portland property owners are reporting more sightings of pokeweed, an invasive plant relatively new to the area. Pokeweed is native to the southeastern United States, and is also found in the Midwest and all along the East Coast. Now it's popping up around the Pacific Northwest.
Pokeweed grows from a large, carrot-shaped tuber to a three to eight-foot tall shrub with reddish stems and bright green leaves. It has white blooms in summer that develop into clusters of dark berries when the plant matures in late summer and early fall. Seedlings develop quickly, and become difficult to dig up after two or three years.
Birds often eat the berries and carry the seeds to new locations, including natural areas. Left unchecked and unmanaged, pokeweed can form dense patches and overwhelm native vegetation.
Although birds seem to be immune to the berries, every part of the pokeweed plant is toxic to people. Some people eat parts of the plant (poke salad is an example). But preparation is tricky and ingesting improperly prepared pokeweed can cause severe nausea, or even death.
If you spot pokeweed on your property, you should clip the berry clusters or blooms and put them in the trash, not in your yard debris container. The City of Portland's Early Detection/Rapid Response (EDRR) Program may be able to help with removal. The EDRR staff is mapping known plants, removing berries from those plants, and researching more pokeweed management methods.
If you think you've seen pokeweed growing in Portland, or you think it's growing on your property, please contact the EDRR Program at 503-823-2989. For more information, go to the 4-County Cooperative Weed Management Area website at www.4countycwma.org and click on “Weed of the Month,” or download a pokeweed fact sheet at www.portlandonline.com/bes/pokeweed.