COMMON POKEWEED, Phytolocca americona L. 1, part of fleshy taproot; 2, branch with flower raceme and berries; 3, flower; 4, upper surface of berry; 5, seed. Perennial, from a very large, poisonous taproot, often 6 inches (15 cm) across in older plants. Stems stout, erect, 3 to 9 feet (0.9 to 2.7 m) high, smooth, branching above, often reddish, dying to the ground each winter. Leaves alternate, large but smaller toward top of plant, with short to long petioles. Flowers small, white, in long, rather narrow, unbranched racemes from ends of stems and from upper branches. Fruit a dark purple, many-seeded berry with red juice. Seeds small, flattened, round in outline, shiny black, about 1/8 inch (3 mm) in diameter. Found in rich, low-ground pastures, roadsides, borders of fields, and similar places. The root is the most poisonous part of the plant. Poisoning from leaves and berries is occasional.