Left: from the garden of Sue H.
Pokeweed or Pokeberry, Phytolacca americana, is the Herb Society of America Notable Native™ Herbal Shrub-2023. Clicking this LINK will open a Fact Sheet giving information on the plant which is in it's full beauty at the moment (late August - mid September). Sue reports that the one shown here is often full of birds plucking off the fruits (not edible for us!) as soon as they ripen. It received Notable Native Herbal Shrub status for its beauty (if you can tolerate a little weediness), and as a nutritious food for a large number of birds.
In addition, the plant had many medicinal uses, some of which are now being studied for various possible uses. Until the results are in, we urge you to read the serious cautions outlined on the Fact Sheet, as all parts of the plant are TOXIC.
The very young shoots of the plants (perennials which die back to the ground in winter) have been consumed as a vegetable, and still are, particularly in southern states. Multiple changes of water are required for safety, as the selected shoots and very young leaves (with a taste somewhat like baby spinach), which are reported to be safe and tasty, are officially considered toxic and The Herb Society of America agrees until such time as confirmed studies by approprite agencies are completed.
A completely safe recipe for Pokeweed ink is also found on the Fact Sheet. It is easy to make--but hurry, as the fruits will soon be gone--and fun to use for drawing or writing. The ink will eventually fade from it's bright magenta color to a pale brown. Some claims have been made that Pokeberry ink was used to write the U.S. Constitution. That is questionable, as it is unlikely we would still be able to read the document which is on display at the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. Still, it is fun to experiment and enjoy the results while they last.
Left: Conoclinium coelestinum, Blue mist.
Sometimes mistaken for Ageratum houstonianum (Ageratum), but this native perennial grows to 3' tall, far outperforming the Ageratum at 6" - 12" tall. Blue mist is blooming now (mid-Sept.) in Sue H.'s garden, and we thank her for the photo.
This plant does well in her sunny garden and isn't intimidated by surrounding plants. As a matter of fact, it can spread widely via rhizomes, so give it plenty of room.
There are no known edible uses. There are traditional medicinal uses (primaily for skin infections or to stop bleeding --with leaves), but so far, none that have been documented with scientific studies.
Lovely to have in the Fall when there is a looming shortage of flowering plants.
Most useful as a food source for pollinators.
Left: Kathy S. sent in this photo of Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, New England Aster, that was taken during a visit to Maine early last October. A beautiful plant to have in bloom when so many others have already lost their flowers.
In garden settings around here it can reach 5' tall and will spread via dropping seeds. If you've had enough, just deadhead the flowers once petals fade and before seeds form. Birds, however, love the seeds, so leave them and pull up the seedlings that appear in spring.
This aster, as well as some others, make a dye ranging from pale yellow to bright gold or green-ish gold depending on the mordant you use.
In addition, you can eat the flowers, using them as a garnish on salads or adorning vegetable or cheese trays. As for me, I prefer them either on the plant or in a vase in the house, where I can see them all day long!
The flowers and leaves have been used to make a tea to gently encourage sleep, similar to the use of Chamomile.
The Herb Society of America, Inc. provides information on possible medicinal uses use of plants with the caution that consultation with a physician is the only safe way to be sure that such use is accurate and will be safe and useful for you.
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