The Temperate Database is in the process of being updated, with new records being added and old ones being checked and brought up to date where necessary. This record has not yet been checked and updated.
Phytolacca esculenta is a perennial plant that can grow up to 1.00 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine 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.
E. Asia - China.
Valleys, hillsides, forest understories, forest margins and roadsides at elevations of 500 - 3400 metres[
]. It is also found in cultivated land houses, moist fertile lands and as a weed[
An easily grown plant, succeeding in most soils[
], though preferring a moisture retentive soil in full sun or partial shade[
]. We have found the plants to be very tolerant of drought[
]. Plants can be grown in quite coarse grass, which can be cut annually in the autumn[
The young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts.
There is sme disagreement over the correct name for this species with some authorities saying that it is no more than a synonym for P. acinosa[
], whilst others give it specific status[
]. There are reports that there is a white flowered plant, which could either be this species or a form of P. acinosa which is said to be non-toxic and to have an edible root[
]. See P. acinosa for more details.
Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[
Leaves - they must be cooked and are used as a spinach[
]. Only the young leaves should be used since they become toxic with age.
Root - cooked[
The roots contain saponins[
]. They are abortifacient, antiasthmatic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiinflammatory, antiphlogistic, antitussive, diuretic, expectorant, hypotensive and purgative[
]. A decoction is used in the treatment of oedema, beri-beri, lumbago, rheumatism, abdominal distension and numbness of the throat[
]. Use with caution, see the notes above 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.