Pokeberry Tree
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Pokeberry Tree
ntroduced Photo: Amit Kumar
Common name: Pokeberry Tree, belhambra, packalacca, phytolacca
Botanical name: Phytolacca dioica    Family: Phytolaccaceae (Pokeweed family)
Synonyms: Phytolacca arborea, Phytolacca populifolia, Pircunia dioica

Pokeberry Tree is a spreading deciduous tree, 6-10 m in height, with a domed crown. Trunk is erect, stout, uniquely swollen at the base, which may grow to 4 m in diameter, spreading above the ground so that the tree appears to be standing on a mound. Bark is grey to pale brown, rough, becomes gnarled with age; young branches fleshy green. The trunk and branches contain up to 80% of water. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as a "giant herb". Leaves are simple, alternate, typical of the family, appearing as terminal whorls; each smooth, oval, somewhat recurved, up to 15 cm in length, margin edge appearing white, midrib extending to form a distinct tip. Young leaves are fresh light-green, leaf stalks and midribs tinged with red. Flowers are borne on terminal, more or less pendulous sprays about 10 cm long. The flowers are unisexual and male and female flowers are borne on separate trees (that's the meaning of dioica). Leaves occur alternately on different sides of the branchlets and have long pinkish leaf-stalks. Flowers are small, creamy white, with many stamens arising from 5 green sepals hanging in handsome terminal catkins up to 15 cm in length. The tree is quite striking when in flower. Fruits is juicy, yellow to black berries with 10 lobes hanging in clusters. They produced irregularly after flowering, each 3-7 mm; small, shiny, grey-black seeds are found inside the soft fruits. Pokeberry Tree is native to Tropical South America.

Identification credit: Amit Kumar
Photographed in Forest Research Institute, Dehradun.
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