Backyard Jungle: Pokeweed deserves a second look

NBC12's Pokeweed
NBC12's Pokeweed

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By Andrew Freiden - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It's a menacing sight that rears its ugly head every summer. Those huge weeds with the brilliant purple stalks.

Most weeds don't get this tall -- but in this tiny protected courtyard at NBC12, one plant has been growing with a vengeance growing over 10 feet tall!

It looks like an invasive plant to most -- it's bright color seems to shout out "Rip me out the ground and throw me away!"

So after watching months of beanstalk-like growth, we called in the expert -- horticulturist Doug Hensel.  He had a surprising answer: it's called pokeweed -- its not an exotic invader, and he likes it!

"It's a beautiful plant," said Doug Hensel of Great Big Greenhouse. "The stalk is beautiful, it's got that rhubard trunk to it. It's a beautiful plant you got here!"

And it's native to Virginia. There's no need to kill it.

"Our Declaration of Independence was written by fermented ink made from these berries," Hensel said.

Doug appreciates its history and it's beauty -- he actually has one growing in his backyard.

"A weed is something growing where you don't want it. Then it becomes a weed," Hensel said.

Doug says when this monster was a baby, it was edible. Some people actually eat the first young shoots.

"There was a song, 'Poke Salad Annie' was all about eating pokeweed leaves," Hensel said.

Thanks to Doug's lesson, the NBC12 pokeweed will live to survive a few more months -- thriving in a perfect environment for growth. Plenty of water, sun, and adoring fans....

So maybe that purple monster taking over your neighborhood deserves a second look.

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