Pokeweed – Phytolacca americana

Although proper preparation and cooking of Pokeweeds might be necessary for human consumption, many birds feast on the ripened raw Pokeweed fruits alone. Mockingbirds, like many other bird species, are attracted to ripe purple berries.
Northern Mockingbirds can be found year-round in most southern states, including Oklahoma. Likewise, Pokeweed, also known as Pokeberry, is a native plant to Oklahoma and many other states in North America. Pokeweed reaches heights of between 3-10 feet during its lifetime and grows well in both shade and sunlight. On some occasions, a fully grown Pokeweed plant can be up to 21 feet tall.
Once the plant fully ripens, small fruit clusters can be found on the ground around the plant, which Mockingbirds enjoy as well. Mockingbirds are ground foragers, meaning they run, hop, and walk on the ground grabbing food to eat. According to The Cornell Lab, Mockingbirds even fly higher so they can hover and grab plant fruits.
Pokeweed blossoms and stems are eaten by many animals in the early months. However, it does begin to ripen and form berries during the months of August and September, which is perfect for the Northern Mockingbird as it is mainly searching for fruits during the winter. When Pokeweed fruits begin to ripen, they change colors from a light green to a dark purple. Birds are still able to find the fallen berry clusters because of their dark color.
The Northern Mockingbird enjoys more urban settings with grassy areas and shrubs. Therefore, if one pays attention to the birds they see and hear in the early mornings or late at night, it is likely that the Northern Mockingbird is one singing among them.
Pokeweed fruit cluster with ripe purple berries and green inmature fruits.

Pokeweed fruit cluster with ripe purple berries and green inmature fruits.

WARNING – All parts of Pokeweed are toxic to humans.  Since the berries are not very palatable to people, most don’t try to eat them.  Children are may poisoned by eating raw berries, but fortunately these are the least toxic part of the plant.