poke vs. elderberry
a comparison photo of poke and elderberry to show the difference between the two.
elderberries are tiny. they grow in clusters instead of a long cylindrical cone if that makes sense...picture queen anne's lace or yarrow with berries and that's what elderberries looks like. pokeberries are about the size of peas with a dent in each berry. elderberries are about the size of a bb.
also, the stems of elderberry are thin and woody with brown flecks on them. the only part of the elder bush that is red is the stems that the berries are on and some of the leaf stems. pokeberry plant stems are generally a purply red.
the leaves are different too. they look more like the leaves on a walnut tree, compound. the leaves on elderberry are opposite while the leaves on poke are simple and alternate.
as an aside, pokeberries are not as poisonous as people make them out to be...yes, if you ate a bunch of the berries and chewed the seeds in them really well, you would probably puke a lot and may have more serious side effects but they don't taste very good and the taste alone would stop you. swallowing a few berries will do nothing more than put your body into high gear to clear out your system. as long as you don't chew the seeds, it's not going to do a whole lot to you other than maybe give you diarrhea. (but please, don't try eating them nevertheless!)
having said that, poke is an excellent lymph mover. i've used it a lot in the past for swollen lymph nodes and for plugged ducts that cause mastitis. it is a low dose medicinal but a very valuable one!
poke makes a beautiful dye but sadly, it's not color fast. it is fun to paint your hair with and washes out w/o staining. also, you can substitute it for ink in the elderberry ink recipe!! :)