Buds in dense spike, purple stain from bird eating fruit

Green to pinkish, hairless stems

Elliptic leaf with entire margin

Flowers small, greenish, white, in dense spikes

Immature fruit

Ripe fruit is juicy and attractive to birds

Purple-black seed releasing from fruit


Root and woody base

Scientific Name

Phytolacca octandra



Common Names



tropical America




Distinguishing Characteristics

This is an erect, short-lived perennial (living more than 1 growing season) herb with woody base, growing to 2m tall. Stems are green with a reddish tinge, smooth and hairless. Often found in moist areas but may be found in any disturbed area where birds have dropped the seed.

Leaves are elliptic to pear or lance shaped, green turning red. The hairless leaf to 16cm long has an entire margin with petiole (stem) to 40mm long.

Flowers are small, greenish-white and arranged in dense spikes, spring to summer. The stalks are 1-2cm long.

Fruit is a berry with reddish-purple juice when ripe and crushed. The colour of the fruit changes from red to purple-black when ripe. The fruit is 8-lobed and 8-seeded. 

This plant is easily removed by hand.

Other plants easily confused with this plant

Phytolacca americana (Pokeweed) is a similar plant also from tropical America, is flowers are pink to red and have longer stalks 4-5cm long.

Sources & References

"Weeds - an illustrated botanical guide to weeds of Australia" by B. A. Auld and R. W. Medd

"Southern Weeds and their control" by John Moore and Judy Wheeler

"Plantnet FloraOnline"  (2005)


Prepared by Justin KY Chu, July 2005

Checked by IEWF, January 2007