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How to Get Rid of Pokeweed in Your Yard

 Rid of Pokeweed in Your Yard

American buckwheat (Phytolacca americana) is a vigorous plant that can be tricky to remove. This perennial weed grows very fast and can reach 10 feet tall and three feet wide in a single season, crowding other nearby plants. Although buckwheat is native to eastern North America, it has spread to most of the United States and is considered invasive outside of its native range. But even if it's a native, you might not want this rough, aggressive plant in your yard.

What does pokeweed look like?

Often found along roadsides, disturbed fields, and woodlands, Pokeweed produces large, dark green leaves held on strong stems; And it can grow so large that it often looks like a shrub. Clusters of small, greenish-white flowers appear in early summer, followed by inky purple berries used as ink and dye.

Beware of Pokeweed poisoning

All parts of the American buckwheat plant are poisonous—especially the roots. "If allowed to grow unchecked, buckwheat forms a large and toxic root mass," says Dwight Lingenfelder, senior extension associate at Penn State University.

Although some people eat both the leaves (poke salad) and the pokeweed berries, think twice before sampling them; They must be harvested sometimes and prepared with great caution, otherwise, they can make you sick or worse. And even if ingested, the plant can cause a very bad rash. Therefore, for the safety of your family and pets, remove Pokeweed from your yard and prevent it from coming back.

Removal of young Pokeweed

If you can identify buckwheat when it's very young (before it's established), hand-weeding them is a good option, especially when the soil is wet. Your goal is to remove the young plants with their root system intact.

"Hand pulling is especially effective on newly sprouted plants and/or plants in their first year of growth," says Scott Oneto, University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor. "Even though the plants are very large in the first year, the large stems help with hand pulling because they allow something to hold onto to extract the plants from the soil. In summer, when the soil dries out, hand pulling is very difficult," says Onto.

If you know an area has buckwheat growing, keep your eyes peeled for seedlings emerging from dropped fruit. "Pokeweed seedlings will emerge from seed throughout the growing season, so control them when they're small and control them before they get a large root system," says Lingenfelter. Wear gardening gloves and long sleeves and pants to protect your skin from getting a rash when removing Pokeweed.

How to Kill Pokeweed is established

The Pokeweed plant is large and very difficult to weed by hand. Pulling on the cord can cause it to snap. "Removing only the above-ground part of the plant (leaves and stems) will resprout from the root crown," says Onto. He also recommends using a spade to dig up established plants. But you have to dig deep to remove the entire root system, which can be extensive.

For large, well-rooted Pokeweed plants, obtaining full root mass is not possible. In this case, Oneto advises focusing on removing the top 3-6 inches of root from the soil surface. This can help reduce and reduce relapse.

If pulling or digging isn't enough to get rid of large Pokeweed, you may need to treat it with a herbicide. "Herbicides such as Roundup (glyphosate), 2,4-D and dicamba can be used to provide Pokeweed control, but caution should be exercised when using these products," says Lingenfelder, noting that desirable plants are easily injured or killed. Through accidental contact with these chemicals.

"Organic herbicides such as vinegar, oils from cloves, cinnamon, lemongrass, and other organic varieties also do not provide effective control of buckwheat because they only 'burn' the leaves and do not translocate (travel) into the root system. Late summer or early fall is the best time to apply herbicide," says Lingenfelder. He suggests effective timing, noting that it may take more than one season to achieve effective control of established buckwheat.

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