Poisonous pokeweed becomes invasive and should be removed

Backyard Q&A

May 05, 2002|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun

Q. Pokeweed is growing in the lot next to our house. I understand that the leaves of pokeweed can be cooked as a green vegetable, but I have also heard that it is poisonous. Which is true and what should I do with the pokeweed?

A. Both are true. All parts of the fresh pokeweed plant are poisonous and if eaten can cause severe symptoms and even death. However, the young tender greens, when cooked properly, can be eaten as a vegetable.

Some people also cook the ripe purple berries for pies. In addition to being poisonous, this weed can be very invasive. I would consider removing it for this reason.

Also, if there were any young children playing in the area, I would get rid of the pokeweed. Because the pokeweed develops a very deep taproot, this should be done as early in the season as possible. It can be very difficult to dig out later in the year. And remember that the roots are poisonous, too. Use caution when you dig them out.

Q. My daylily clumps have become overgrown and need to be divided. Is this a good time to divide daylilies?

A. Daylilies are very tough plants and can be divided at just about any time in the growing season. If you divided them now, they will have very few blooms this summer; however they will have time to get well-established and should flower nicely next summer. By waiting until late summer to divide them, you can appreciate the blooms this year, but they will not flower as well next year. Daylilies do need some time to get established before winter sets in, so I would not divide them any time after Oct. 1.

Q. We purchased a new home last fall that had several shrubs that I thought were lilacs. However, they were evergreen this winter and the neighbor claims they are privets. Is there evergreen privet?

A. Yes, there is evergreen privet that will grow in our area. It is the Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum). I can see how you could get them confused with lilacs. The leaf shape and color of Japanese privet is similar to those of some lilacs. This is a very adaptable plant that will grow in a variety of soils and will grow in sun or partial shade.

It will grow 6 to 12 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1-p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site, www.agnr.umd.edu / users / hgic.

Checklist

1. Water new grass seed at least once a day until it germinates. It will not germinate properly unless it is kept evenly moist.

2. If you have limed your soil several times in recent years, be sure to do a soil test before adding more lime. Over-liming can reduce nutrient availability to plants.

3. Remove labels from newly planted trees and shrubs. The labels are wrapped around branches and can girdle (choke) them as they grow in size.

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