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Useful Tropical Plants

Phytolacca acinosa

Roxb.

Phytolaccaceae

+ Synonyms

Phytolacca esculenta Van Houtte

Phytolacca pekinensis Hance

Common Name: Indian Poke

Phytolacca acinosa
Flowering plant in the Botanical Gardens of Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Photograph by: Karelj
Creative Commons License
Phytolacca acinosa Phytolacca acinosa Phytolacca acinosa Phytolacca acinosa

General Information

Phytolacca acinosa is a herbaceous perennial plant growing 50 - 150cm tall from a thick, fleshy rootstock[
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.
].
The plant provides food and medicines for local use. It is cultivated for its edible leaves in India, and is sometimes grown as an ornamental[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
51
Title
Flowers of the Himalayas.
Publication
 
Author
Polunin. O. and Stainton. A.
Publisher
Oxford Universtiy Press
Year
1984
ISBN
-
Description
A very readable and good pocket guide (if you have a very large pocket!) to many of the wild plants in the Himalayas. Gives many examples of plant uses.
,
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
]. It is said that there are two forms of this plant, one with red flowers that has a poisonous root, whilst another with white flowers that has a white edible root. This white form is said to be cultivated for its edible root in parts of China[
178
Title
Chinese Materia Medica.
Publication
 
Author
Stuart. Rev. G. A.
Publisher
Taipei. Southern Materials Centre
Year
1911
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
].

Known Hazards

The leaves are poisonous. They are said to be safe to eat when young, the toxins developing as they grow older. According to another report it is only a form with reddish purple flowers and a purple root that is poisonous[
178
Title
Chinese Materia Medica.
Publication
 
Author
Stuart. Rev. G. A.
Publisher
Taipei. Southern Materials Centre
Year
1911
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
].

Botanical References

51
Title
Flowers of the Himalayas.
Publication
 
Author
Polunin. O. and Stainton. A.
Publisher
Oxford Universtiy Press
Year
1984
ISBN
-
Description
A very readable and good pocket guide (if you have a very large pocket!) to many of the wild plants in the Himalayas. Gives many examples of plant uses.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
,
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.

Range

E. Asia - China, Japan, Korea, India, Sikkim, Bhutan, Myanmar, Vietnam.

Habitat

Valleys, hillsides, forest understoreys, forest margins and roadsides at elevations of 500 - 3,400 metres[
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.
]. It is also found in cultivated land beside houses, in moist fertile lands and as a weed[
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitPerennial
Height1.50 m
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Ornamental, Wild

Cultivation Details

A plant of warm temperate to tropical areas, when dormant it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. The young growth can be damaged by frosts.
An easily grown plant, succeeding in most soils[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
], though preferring a moisture retentive fertile soil in full sun or partial shade[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Plants can be grown in quite coarse grass, which can be cut annually in the autumn[
233
Title
Perennial Garden Plants
Publication
 
Author
Thomas. G. S.
Publisher
J. M. Dent & Sons, London.
Year
1990
ISBN
0 460 86048 8
Description
A concise guide to a wide range of perennials. Lots of cultivation guides, very little on plant uses.
].
The plant often self sows when in a suitable position[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[
233
Title
Perennial Garden Plants
Publication
 
Author
Thomas. G. S.
Publisher
J. M. Dent & Sons, London.
Year
1990
ISBN
0 460 86048 8
Description
A concise guide to a wide range of perennials. Lots of cultivation guides, very little on plant uses.
].

Edible Uses

Leaves - they must be cooked, and are then used as a spinach[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
,
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
51
Title
Flowers of the Himalayas.
Publication
 
Author
Polunin. O. and Stainton. A.
Publisher
Oxford Universtiy Press
Year
1984
ISBN
-
Description
A very readable and good pocket guide (if you have a very large pocket!) to many of the wild plants in the Himalayas. Gives many examples of plant uses.
,
105
Title
Tanaka's Cyclopedia of Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Tanaka. T. & Nakao S.
Publisher
Keigaku Publishing; Tokyo
Year
1976
ISBN
-
Description
The most comprehensive list of edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
,
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. Only the young leaves should be used since they become toxic with age. The young shoots are used as an asparagus substitute[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
,
105
Title
Tanaka's Cyclopedia of Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Tanaka. T. & Nakao S.
Publisher
Keigaku Publishing; Tokyo
Year
1976
ISBN
-
Description
The most comprehensive list of edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
,
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. They have an excellent flavour[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
].

Root - cooked[
178
Title
Chinese Materia Medica.
Publication
 
Author
Stuart. Rev. G. A.
Publisher
Taipei. Southern Materials Centre
Year
1911
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
]. Must be leeched first[
179
Title
Famine Foods listed in the Chiu-Huang Pen-ts'ao.
Publication
 
Author
Reid. B. E.
Publisher
Southern Materials Centre; Taipei
Year
1977
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese book on edible wild foods. Fascinating.
]. Only the white root of the white flowered form (if it exists![
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]) should be eaten.

Medicinal

The root is antiasthmatic, antibacterial, antidote, antifungal, antitussive, diuretic, expectorant, laxative and vermifuge[
176
Title
Handbook of Chinese Herbs and Formulas.
Publication
 
Author
Yeung. Him-Che.
Publisher
Institute of Chinese Medicine, Los Angeles
Year
1985
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent Chinese herbal giving information on over 500 species. Rather technical and probably best suited to the more accomplished user of herbs.
,
178
Title
Chinese Materia Medica.
Publication
 
Author
Stuart. Rev. G. A.
Publisher
Taipei. Southern Materials Centre
Year
1911
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
,
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
,
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. The root is used internally in the treatment of urinary disorders, nephritis, oedema and abdominal distension[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].
Externally, the root is used to treat boils, carbuncles and sores[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].
The roots are harvested in the autumn and dried for later use[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].
All parts of the plant are toxic, this remedy should be used with caution and preferably under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.

The plant has an interesting chemistry and it is currently (1995) being investigated as a potential anti-AIDS drug[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. It contains potent anti-inflammatory agents, antiviral proteins and substances that affect cell division[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. These compounds are toxic to many disease-causing organisms, including the water snails that cause schistosomiasis[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].

Other Uses

A red ink is obtained from the fruit[
57
Title
Plants for Man.
Publication
 
Author
Schery. R. W.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Fairly readable but not very comprehensive. Deals with plants from around the world.
].

Propagation

Seed - sow autumn or spring in a cold frame[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.
If you have sufficient seed, it might be worthwhile trying an outdoor sowing in a seed bed in early spring. Grow the plants on in the seedbed for their first year and plant them out the following spring.
Division in March or October. Use a sharp spade or knife to divide the rootstock, making sure that each section has at least one growth bud. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.

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