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Common Name: Bella Sombra
Phytolacca dioica is an evergreen tree that can grow up to 4.00 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and source of materials.
The leaves are poisonous. They are said to be alright to eat when young, the toxins developing as they grow older. Other parts of the plant, including the fruit, are likely to be poisonous.
S. America - Argentina.
An easily grown plant, succeeding in most soils[
], though preferring a moisture retentive fertile soil in full sun or partial shade[
]. Plants can be grown in quite coarse grass, which can be cut annually in the autumn[
This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c[
]. A spreading shade-giving tree in its native habitat, it might develop as a shrub in a warm sheltered position in Britain[
]. The young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts.
Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[
Young leaves and shoots - cooked and used as a vegetable[
]. The leaves should not be eaten raw and only the young leaves should be used since they become toxic with age.
The fruits are made into jellies or jams and are also used as a red colouring for food[
]. Some caution is advised. See notes on toxicity.
A red ink is obtained from the fruit.
Seed - sow autumn or spring in a cold frame[
]. 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 early spring or early autumn. 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.