How To Get Rid Of Pokeweed 

Having a pokeweed thriving in a yard is probably the last thing a gardener or lawn owner could ever want.  This intrusive weed is not only a distraction to the eyes but also very dangerous as it has a toxic sap that if ingested, can lead to death.  

Pokeweed spreads quickly and has a deep rooting system, which may seem impossible to beat.  However, experts have come up with 6 simple steps to combat their growth.  

What is a Pokeweed Plant?

A pokeweed plant is a herbaceous perennial weed, which has a scientific name of Phytolacca americana.  It is likewise known as Cancer Root, Pokeroot, Inkberry Coakun, Pigeon Berry, Pokan, Bush, Nightshade, or just Poke.   

It can mostly be found in the southern part of the United States, but has also spread out in other regions of the country.  If you belong to the US warmer zones, particularly zones 2 to 11, you possibly have a pokeweed emerging near you.  

This American pokeweed normally grows uncontrollably in distressed areas like pastures or fields.  You would likewise find them in woods and, unfortunately, in gardens.  This is the type of plant that you wouldn’t want to grow in your garden because you definitely don’t want anyone to suffer pokeweed poisoning .  

This insidious poke weed grows double time.  Imagine this, one pokeweed plant can generate around 50,000 seeds!  That’s how fast a pokeweed can multiply.  Poke seeds are also carried by birds, which makes the distribution even faster.  

How to Identify Pokeweed

Poke Leaves

The poke leaves can grow from 5 inches to as long as 10 inches.  Its surface is dark green and underneath it is pinkish.  It’s likened to the shape of an egg having a smooth surface.  


Pokeweed develops long white-green bunches of flowers and each flower further develops into a poke berry.  It’s like a small tree or a tall bush that could grow to as high as 10 feet.  

Poke Roots

Its taproot is long, white and fleshy that can measure up to around six inches.  You can also determine it through its reddish purple, smooth and tall stems, which are hollow and thick.  

Pokeweed Berry

Pokeweed berry looks quite similar to purple grapes, only darker.  Its appearance makes it appealing to children, which makes it very risky to just let it sit in your garden.  

The major identifying mark that differentiates the pokeweed berry from grapes is their stem.  The pokeweed berry has a reddish stem, while grapes have wood stems.  


The elderberry and the poke berry have almost the same characteristics, they just differ in size.  An elderberry is way smaller than a poke berry.  

The stems of the Elderberry are flecked and woody, which looks like a branch of a tiny tree.  On the other hand, the stem of a pokeberry is hollow, smooth, and has a succulent texture. 

Getting Rid of Pokeweed Manually

Things You’ll Need

  • Any long-sleeved clothing
  • Long pants
  • Protective gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Rake or garden fork
  • Tarp sheet
  • Soil Screen

You may have noticed that several of the things that you’ll be needing are mostly to protect you.  Well, better safe than sorry, right?  

Remember, you are dealing with a poisonous pokeweed plant.  The sap of a weed, when it gets in contact with the eyes and skin, can cause pokeweed rash.  

As much as possible, don’t wait for this nuisance plant to turn into larger pokeweed plants.  When the taproot digs deeper and deeper into the soil, the more difficult it is to eliminate it.  So, just as soon as you see small pokeweed attempting to invade your yard, exterminate it immediately.  

6 Steps to Dig Out Pokeweed Roots

STEP1: Extract the small pole shoots

To remove the small shoots, which can be found at the bottom of the main poke plant, pull it out from the base using your protective gloves.  Make sure you don’t leave any roots in the soil.  Otherwise, a new plant could develop from them.    

TIP: If the soil is dense and the shoots are hard to pull, abort your mission and resume after a rainfall.  If the soil is damp, it will be easier for you to uproot the shoots.  

STEP 2: Remove the main pokeweed plant

After you have removed the small poke shoots, it’s time to take out the mother pokeweed.  Make a circle, maybe about 12 inches in diameter, around the mother plant, then hollow out until you are able to take out every single taproot.  Again, do not leave any roots as it can develop into a new and invasive plant.  

STEP 3: Let the extracted pokeweed dry out

After you’re done extracting every pokeweed, lay them out on a tarp and allow them to dry.  Once they’re all dried out and withered, place them in a garbage bag and dispose of them.  Make sure not to leave even just one pokeweed berry or seed behind.   

STEP 4: Loosen the soil using a rototiller

When you’ve finished removing poke shoots and mother pokeweeds, the next thing you should do is to till the soil.  You will also need a soil screen to ensure that there are no more seeds and roots left.  

Sun Joe TJ603E 16-Inch 12-Amp Electric Tiller and Cultivator , Green

STEP 5: Remove pokeweed remains 

To ensure that your garden soil is already totally free from pokeweed, you have to use a soil screen to filter out pokeweed berries and roots.  Shovel the soil and put it onto the soil screen that’s placed above a box or a wheelbarrow, then filter.

STEP 6: Plant grass 

Expect that after successfully removing the pokeweed, your yard will have empty spots.  What you’ll do is to plant grass seed or any type of plant to fill in the vacant spaces.  

So, there you have it, 6 easy steps to get rid of pokeweed.  Do these simple steps and you’ll be assured of having a pokeweed-free garden.  

IMPORTANT TIP:  Never ever leave taproot fragments behind.  If you do, await the return of the comeback of the invasive pokeweed.  

Eliminate Pokeweed Using a Weed Killer

If you’re not successful in getting rid of pokeweed manually, or you find the process so exhausting, then your other option would be to use a weed killer.  The weed killer is effective in eliminating pokeweed, but you have to use it with a high level of cautiousness.

Pokeweed, like I said earlier, grows quickly, and there’s a big possibility that you won’t be able to catch up if you choose to kill it manually.  If you want to get it out of your sight fast and easy, then fill up the pressure sprayer with weed killer and begin targeting the stubborn pokeweed.

But if using the weed killer is not yet enough to exterminate the pokeberry plant, then try utilizing a glyphosate herbicide 2% solution like the RoundUp Max Control that is available in Amazon.        

Spray the solution to the pokeweed leaves and leave it for 10 days.  After 10 days, simply extract the plants.  

However, this does not guarantee total eradication of the pokeweed, so you still need to monitor the area every now and then.  If you see new pokeweed developing, just reapply the solution.

Pokeweed Frequently Asked Questions 

Is pokeweed toxic?

Yes, it is.  Every part of the pokeweed is considered harmful when ingested, with the roots ranked the most toxic and the berries the least toxic.  The chemical elements that make it poisonous are Saponins and Oxalates.  

What are the symptoms of pokeweed poisoning?

After ingesting a pokeweed, the initial reaction of the body is a burning sensation in the area of the mouth.  It can likewise cause diarrhea, nausea and cramps.  If a big amount of pokeweed has been taken in, convulsions, respiratory failure, or even death may occur.

What happens when you come in contact with pokeweed?  

In the event that you come in contact with a pokeweed, you will develop some pokeweed rash, which is like a poison ivy rash.  Moreover, if you get exposed to a pokeweed, you will develop an itchy blister rash.  So, to avoid all these, you need to always wear protection when dealing with pokeweed.