Phytolacca americana (Scientific name)

General poisoning notes:

Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a native herb found in the southwestern parts of Ontario and Quebec. The young shoots are used as poke salad and the leaves as a folk medicine or tea. In both cases, the plant material should be boiled at least twice to get rid of the toxin, according to literature reports. Failure to do so has caused poisoning in humans. Ingesting a few berries does not cause problems, but larger quantities, if uncooked, can be toxic to humans. Cattle, horses, sheep, and particularly swine, have been poisoned by ingesting pokeweed plant material. The berries have poisoned young turkeys experimentally (Patterson 1929, Barnett 1975, Callahan et al. 1981, Cooper and Johnson 1984).

References:

  • Barnett, B. D. 1975. Toxicity of pokeberries (fruit of Phytolacca americana Large) for turkey poults. Poult. Sci., 54: 1215-1217.
  • Callahan, R., Piccola, F., Gensheimer, K., Parkin, W. E., Prusakowski, J., Scheiber, G., Henry, S. 1981. Epidemiologic notes and reports. Plant poisonings - New Jersey. U.S. Dep. Health Hum. M. M. W. R., 30: 65-67.
  • Cooper, M. R., Johnson, A. W. 1984. Poisonous plants in Britain and their effects on animals and man. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, England.305 pp.
  • Jaeckle, K. A., Freemon, F. R. 1981. Pokeweed poisoning. South. Med. J., 74: 639-640.
  • Lawrence, R. A. 1990. The clinical effects of pokeweed root ingestion upon 32 adults. Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 32: 369.
  • Lewis, W. H., Smith, P. R. 1979. Poke root herbal tea poisoning. J. Am. Med. Assoc., 242: 2759-2760.
  • Patterson, F. D. 1929. Pokeweed causes heavy losses in swine herd. Vet. Med. Small Anim. Clin., 24: 114.
  • Stein, Z. L. 1979. Pokeweed-induced gastroenteritis. Am. J. Hosp. Pharm., 36: 1303.

Nomenclature:

Scientific Name:
Phytolacca americana L.
Vernacular name(s):
pokeweed
Scientific family name:
Phytolaccaceae
Vernacular family name:
pokeweed

Go to ITIS*ca for more taxonomic information on: Phytolacca americana

References:

  • Agriculture Quebec.1975. Noms des maladies des plantes du Canada/ Names of plant diseases in Canada. , Quebec City, Que., Canada. 288 pp.
  • Alex, J. F., Cayouette, R., Mulligan, G. A. 1980. Common and botanical names of weeds in Canada/Noms populaire et scientifiques des plantes nuisibles du Canada. Revised. Agric. Can. Publ., Ottawa, Ont., Canada.132 pp.
  • Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA.1290 pp.
  • Scoggan, H. J. 1978, 1979. The flora of Canada. Nat. Mus. Nat. Sci. (Ottawa) Publ. Bot. 7(1)-7(4).1711 pp.
  • Van Wijk, H. L. 1911. A dictionary of plant names. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, The Netherlands. 1444 pp.
  • Victorin, M. 1964. Flore Laurentienne. 2nd ed. Univ. Montreal, Montreal, Que., Canada.952 pp.

Geographic Information

  • Ontario
  • Quebec

References:

  • Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA.1290 pp.
  • Boivin, B. 1966, 1967. Énumération des plantes du Canada. Provencheria 6. Nat. Can. (Que.) 93: 253-274; 371-437; 583-646; 989-1063.94: 131-157; 471-528; 625-655.

Image or illustration

Images: Phytolacca americana - Google Search

Notes on Poisonous plant parts:

Leaves, young shoots, and roots are poisonous. The berries are considered relatively nontoxic to humans, although toxicity to animals and humans has been reported. Barnett (1974) describes experimental poisoning and death in turkey poults.

Toxic parts:

  • all parts
  • leaves
  • mature fruit
  • roots
  • stems
  • young shoots

References:

  • Barnett, B. D. 1975. Toxicity of pokeberries (fruit of Phytolacca americana Large) for turkey poults. Poult. Sci., 54: 1215-1217.
  • Callahan, R., Piccola, F., Gensheimer, K., Parkin, W. E., Prusakowski, J., Scheiber, G., Henry, S. 1981. Epidemiologic notes and reports. Plant poisonings - New Jersey. U.S. Dep. Health Hum. M. M. W. R., 30: 65-67.
  • Jaeckle, K. A., Freemon, F. R. 1981. Pokeweed poisoning. South. Med. J., 74: 639-640.
  • Lawrence, R. A. 1990. The clinical effects of pokeweed root ingestion upon 32 adults. Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 32: 369.
  • Lewis, W. H., Smith, P. R. 1979. Poke root herbal tea poisoning. J. Am. Med. Assoc., 242: 2759-2760.
  • Patterson, F. D. 1929. Pokeweed causes heavy losses in swine herd. Vet. Med. Small Anim. Clin., 24: 114.
  • Stein, Z. L. 1979. Pokeweed-induced gastroenteritis. Am. J. Hosp. Pharm., 36: 1303.

Notes on Toxic plant chemicals:

Phytolaccatoxin, a triterpene saponin, has been implicated in pokeweed toxicity. The toxin is water-soluble, which has led to the common assumption that boiling the plant material twice will get rid of toxicity.Such treatment is usually sufficient to remove the toxin (Lampe and McCann 1985).

Toxic plant chemicals:

  • phytolaccatoxin
  • phytolaccigenin

References:

  • Lampe, K. F., McCann, M. A. 1985. AMA Handbook of poisonous and injurious plants. American Medical Assoc. Chicago, Ill., USA. 432 pp.
  • Lewis, W. H., Smith, P. R. 1979. Poke root herbal tea poisoning. J. Am. Med. Assoc., 242: 2759-2760.

Animals/Human Poisoning:

Note: When an animal is listed without additional information, the literature (as of 1993) contained no detailed explanation.

Cattle

General symptoms of poisoning:

References:

  • Cooper, M. R., Johnson, A. W. 1984. Poisonous plants in Britain and their effects on animals and man. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, England.305 pp.

Horses

General symptoms of poisoning:

References:

  • Cooper, M. R., Johnson, A. W. 1984. Poisonous plants in Britain and their effects on animals and man. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, England.305 pp.

Humans

General symptoms of poisoning:

Notes on poisoning:

Symptoms of toxicity include sweating, bloody diarrhea, abdominal pains, weakness, incontinence, vomiting, salivation, unconsciousness, tremors, and blurred vision. Ingesting the leaves or young shoots causes toxicity. Sometimes tea made from the leaves can cause poisoning. Symptomatic treatment and replacement of fluids are recommended (Callahan et al. 1981, Jaeckle and Freemon 1981).

References:

  • Callahan, R., Piccola, F., Gensheimer, K., Parkin, W. E., Prusakowski, J., Scheiber, G., Henry, S. 1981. Epidemiologic notes and reports. Plant poisonings - New Jersey. U.S. Dep. Health Hum. M. M. W. R., 30: 65-67.
  • Jaeckle, K. A., Freemon, F. R. 1981. Pokeweed poisoning. South. Med. J., 74: 639-640.
  • Lawrence, R. A. 1990. The clinical effects of pokeweed root ingestion upon 32 adults. Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 32: 369.
  • Lewis, W. H., Smith, P. R. 1979. Poke root herbal tea poisoning. J. Am. Med. Assoc., 242: 2759-2760.
  • Stein, Z. L. 1979. Pokeweed-induced gastroenteritis. Am. J. Hosp. Pharm., 36: 1303.

Sheep

General symptoms of poisoning:

References:

  • Cooper, M. R., Johnson, A. W. 1984. Poisonous plants in Britain and their effects on animals and man. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, England.305 pp.

Swine

General symptoms of poisoning:

Notes on poisoning:

Swine are most frequently poisoned by pokeweed. Symptoms include staggering, vomiting, posterior paralysis, tremors, and death. Post- mortem findings show swollen, dark liver and severe hemorrhagic gastritis (Patterson 1929).

References:

  • Patterson, F. D. 1929. Pokeweed causes heavy losses in swine herd. Vet. Med. Small Anim. Clin., 24: 114.

Turkeys

General symptoms of poisoning:

Notes on poisoning:

Experimental feeding of mashed berries to turkey poults caused weight-gain reduction, ascites, and swollen hocks, causing unsteadiness. Enlarged gall bladder filled with brown fluid was common in dead birds. Wild birds ingest the berries and spread seeds; no toxic cases have been mentioned. Chickens are not poisoned by the berries (Barnett 1975, Cooper and Johnson 1984).

References:

  • Barnett, B. D. 1975. Toxicity of pokeberries (fruit of Phytolacca americana Large) for turkey poults. Poult. Sci., 54: 1215-1217.

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