Escapades with Poke

May 19, 2009
















Pokeberry is a native to the Northeast of the United States. It is, for most land tenders- a most easy plant to grow. Here in California, I found one good source of Pokeberry at the California School of Herbal Studies. Last July, I scooped up all the berries I could, and brought them home to make dye. I got a range of extraordinary oranges in a mid-summer dye vat. I saved hundreds of seeds from this vat, and planted them in the fall in small peat pots. I waited, and waited. Nothing. I tried again, and planted many more seeds, and waited and waited. After researching numerous protocols- I found out, one must poke pokeberry seeds, with a needle or pin, prior to planting.  I sat down, attempting to get my needle through the slick and rounded hard shells of the 2mm length seeds, they shot themselves all over the floor.  I did have several successes.  And, now- in the heart of May, I’m admiring my baby Pokeberrie plants, adorning my outdoor sewing studio.  I am looking forward to this years dye vat. 


Pokeberry from last summer’s berry vat. on corriedale cross roving from West Marin, and two-ply organic yarn from the same ranch.

One Response to “Escapades with Poke”

  1. Thomas of Baltimore Says:

    Back here in the East where this plant grows wild, the seeds germinate most readily after they’ve past through the gullets of birds such as Robins, Catbirds, Mourning Doves, and Starlings (among others.) You can always tell when Pokeberries were on a bird’s menu from the tell-tale purple stain in the droppings it leaves behind.

    In my local city park, I’ve photographed a ring of Phytolacca americana plants encircling a tree growing alone in a field which tells us a flock of birds roosted there at some point after gourging on Pokeberries growing somewhere near that tree.

    -Thomas of Baltimore City

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