Poke weed

Week 33 of the PBP.

Poke weed holds the dubious honor of being the first plant that I took it upon myself to identify because no one I talked to knew what it was. In a sense, it was the guardian to the world of knowledge through guidebooks. I checked out several from the school library, sitting with the plant for what seemed like hours, trying to get it to give up its name to me. I was more than a little thrilled to find out it was poisonous! Dangerous plants are always more glamorous, even at a young age.

Tall stands of poke weed grew around the elementary school. It was also the first plant I ever tried to turn into a spear. It was lightweight—a good quality for an aspiring fourth grade hunter—but its joints twisted and turned, which made it very hard to get it to fly true. Eventually the berries became currency, and were traded for other valuable commodities like acorns and bunches of garlic grass. I later encountered poke weed in the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, where she described it being used to paint the smile on a child’s doll.  We painted rocks and sticks with the mashed up berries quite a bit around the school yard, but never really graduated to dyeing anything other than our fingers.

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