We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Phytolacca dodecandra - L'Her.

Common Name Endod, Pokeberry
Family Phytolaccaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Very poisonous[328 ]. Eating the fruits or leaves may cause acute poisoning, resulting in nausea, bloody diarrhoea, intense congestion of the stomach and intestines, vomiting, weakness, weak and irregular pulse, dilated pupils, swelling of the mucous membrane in the mouth and stupor; death may occur within a few days[299 ]. Although the solutions of crushed fruits kill a range of aquatic life forms, including small fish, leeches, mosquito larvae, other stages of the bilharzia life-cycle (miracidia and cercariae), zebra mussels and tadpoles, the active ingredients are easily biodegradable and are eliminated from the water within 48 hours. Insect larvae and tadpoles are not affected at the concentrations that kill fish and snails[299 ].
Habitats Found in a wide range habitats, including dry or moist forest; woodland; bushland; thickets; grassland; often on or near river banks; on old forest land; plantations; at elevations of 500 - 2,400 metres[328 ].
Range Tropical Africa - Guinea to Eritrea, south to Mozambique.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun
Phytolacca dodecandra Endod, Pokeberry

Phytolacca dodecandra Endod, Pokeberry


Translate this page:


Phytolacca dodecandra, commonly known as African Soapberry, Endod, or Gopo Berry, is a native to Tropical Africa, Southern Africa, and Madagascar. It is an evergreen shrub growing up to 4 m in height. The leaves are alternate, oval, and taper to the tip.The flowering stalks are long and erect, and are white to creamy-green. Medicinally used as treatment for edema, diarrhea, abdominal pain, asthma, tuberculosis, eczema, psoriasis, scabies, ringworm, leprosy, boils, vitiligo, conjunctivitis, river blindness, otitis, malaria, rabies, sore throat, jaundice, epilepsy, etc. It is also used as a laxative and anti-inflammatory. Stems and young leaves are cooked and used as a vegetable. The fruits are fleshy, and sometimes eaten. The leaf and fruit extracts are added to drinks and food as a stimulant. The plant is sometimes grown as a hedge. The fruits yield a red dye while the leaves produce yellow dye. Ashes of burnt plants can be made into soaps. Unripe fruits show molluscicidal activities due to its saponins content.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Phytolacca dodecandra is an evergreen Shrub growing to 4 m (13ft) by 2 m (6ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Insects. The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Phytolacca abyssinica Hoffm. Pircunia abyssinica (Hoffm.) Moq.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Stem
Edible Uses:

Young leaves and stems - cooked[46 ]. There is considerable difference in opinion about the edibility of the leaves, with them being eaten in soups and as a vegetable in some parts of Africa, whilst in other areas they are considered poisonous and are said to have caused the death of people eating them[299 ]. The fruits are eaten in parts of Africa[299 ]. The fleshy fruit, which is up to 15 mm in diameter, consists of 4 - 5 one-seeded berries[299 ]. The leaf or fruit extract is sometimes added to drinks and foods as a stimulant, and is used to curdle milk[299 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Abortifacient  Anthelmintic  Antiasthmatic  Antibacterial  Antidiarrhoeal  Antifungal  Antiinflammatory  Antirheumatic  
Antitumor  Antiviral  Diaphoretic  Diuretic  Eczema  Emetic  Epilepsy  
Laxative  Leprosy  Malaria  Ophthalmic  Parasiticide  Purgative  Rubefacient  
Skin  Stimulant  Tonic

Various parts of the plant are widely used in traditional medicine in Africa to treat a wide range of ailments, despite the toxicity of the plant[299 ]. A number of studies into the plant have been carried out and the presence of a range of medically active compounds have been shown. The leaves, fruits and roots contain numerous saponins (triterpenoid glycosides). These compounds cause haemolysis of red blood cells. On a dry weight basis, the fruit pulp contains 25% saponins; lipids (palmitic acid, oleic acid, stearic acid and a non saponifiable bright orange, waxy material); sugars; starches; pectins and gums; and a water insoluble fraction[299 ]. The roots contain saponins of the phytolaccoside or esculentoside types. These compounds have shown anti-inflammatory activity[299 ]. The aqueous extract from the roots has shown fungicidal activity against Trichophyton mentagrophytes[299 ]. Hydroalcoholic extracts of the aerial parts of the plant showed significant activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Histoplasma capsulatum var. Farciminosum, which causes epizootic lymphangitis[299 ]. The leaf extract showed moderate activity against coxsackie virus in vitro[299 ]. Butanol extracts of the fruits inhibit the growth of Trichomonas vaginalis, but fermented fruits were inactive[299 ]. These extracts also showed spermatocidal properties in vitro and blastocidal activity when injected directly into the uterus of rabbits. Oral administration of a water extract of the aerial parts did not show a significant effect on reproduction in mice[299 ]. The leaves and stems produce the antiviral protein dodecandrin, which is a ribosome-inactivating protein (RIP), similar to pokeweed antiviral protein (PAP), isolated from Phytolacca americana[299 ]. An extract of the roots, leaves, fruits and seeds is abortifacient, anthelmintic, diuretic, emetic, laxative, purgative and sudorific[299 ]. It is used to treat oedema and intestinal problems such as diarrhoea and abdominal pain[299 ]. The leaves and the leaf-sap are cicatrizing, haemostatic, laxative and rubefacient[299 ]. A decoction is given to newborn babies as a gentle laxative[299 ]. The mashed leaves are eaten with banana as a stimulant and tonic, especially after childbirth[299 ]. The boiled leaves, with chicken, are given to children with asthma and tuberculosis[299 ]. The sap, or the fresh, dried or powdered leaves, are applied to wounds and skin ailments such as ringworm, scabies, eczema, psoriasis, leprosy, boils and vitiligo[299 ]. The leaf sap is used as eye drops to cure conjunctivitis and river blindness, and as ear drops to treat otitis[299 ]. The ground leaves are applied to tumours[299 ]. An infusion of the fruit or the root decoction is widely taken to induce abortion, to treat venereal diseases, bilharzia, rabies, malaria, sore throat and other respiratory problems, rheumatic pain and jaundice[299 ]. The crushed roots and fruits are sometimes applied to wounds and skin ailments such as ringworm, scabies, eczema, psoriasis, leprosy, boils and vitiligo[299 ]. The root decoction is drunk to cause vomiting as part of the treatment of enlarged glands[299 ]. The macerated leaves or root bark are used to treat epilepsy[299 ]. An infusion of the root is taken to treat infertility[299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

Other Uses

Dye  Hedge  Insecticide  Parasiticide  Soap

Agroforestry Uses: The plant is used in Ethiopia as a hedge[299 ]. Other Uses A red dye is obtained from the berries[46 , 299 ]. In Zimbabwe the most common use of the fruits is to colour the floor in houses[299 ]. A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves[299 ]. The fruits are rich in saponins. When dried, powdered and mixed with water, they yield a foaming detergent which is traditionally used for washing clothes, and also to wash the body[299 ]. The fruits are harvested when fully grown, but still green, because the saponin content is then highest. Also, ripe fruits are hard to harvest as they fall from the plant and are eaten by birds. Complete fruit bunches are collected manually[299 ]. Soap has also been made from the ashes of burnt plants as well as from the fresh leaves[299 ]. The saponins in the unripe fruits have been shown to have strong molluscicidal activity against a range of water snails, and are readily soluble in water and easy to isolate. These properties are useful in the destruction of these snails, which can carry vectors of human diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). They are widely used to control bilharzia-transmitting snails, as they are a cheaper and less toxic product than synthetic molluscicides[299 ]. However, the saponins are not active against the egg clusters of the snails[299 ]. The saponins in the fruit pulp are not actively molluscicidal until they are combined with an enzyme in the seed - to secure contact between the saponins and the enzyme, and ensure the release of the molluscicidal saponins, it is important to finely crush the fruits before soaking them in water[299 ]. The molluscicidal potency remains stable over a wide range of pH (5 - 9), in the presence of various concentrations of organic and inorganic matter and also after irradiation with ultraviolet light. In acute mammalian toxicity tests the fruit extracts were classified as either non-toxic or slightly toxic, except for the eye, in which they can cause severe irritancy. Eye protection is therefore recommended during fruit crushing and handling of dry powders. Ecotoxicity tests indicated that the crushed fruits are no more toxic than currently recommended synthetic molluscicides. Toxicological studies also showed that the fruit extracts do not have mutagenic or carcinogenic properties[299 ]. There are two ways of applying the fruits for snail control. The first is to make a slurry of the dried and ground fruits in water. Shortly before application the solution is diluted with river water and administered by siphoning the liquid into the river from a barrel. The rivers are treated when the water level is low and the snails are concentrated in relatively small areas. The second way is to extract the active principles only. This method is suitable for larger water bodies such as lakes, where focal application of the molluscicide is required and sprayers have to be used. In order to avoid blockage of the spray nozzle, an extract has to be prepared. The best results are obtained by soaking the dried and powdered fruits overnight and using butanol to make the extract[299 ]. Green unripe fruits contain more active saponins than ripe ones[299 ]. Application of the fruit and leaf extract reduced the levels of damage caused by larvae of the maize stalk borer (Busseola fusca), but 2 applications were not sufficient to provide complete protection of maize against second generation larvae[299 ]. The stems are used as ties in the construction of huts and fences[299 ]. The plant is usually not used as firewood, as the smoke is believed to reduce the male sexual ability[299 ].

Special Uses


References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the tropics. It grows best in areas with an annual rainfall of about 1,400mm and a distinct dry period[299 ]. In areas with high evapotranspiration, especially at lower elevations (below 1,500 metres) partial shade should be available so that the plants do not burn and wilt[299 ]. Prefers a sunny position[299 ]. Full shade substantially lowers both fruit yield and saponin concentration[299 ]. The plant is found in the wild in humid, weakly acidic soils that contain high levels of organic matter[299 ]. In some areas the plant can flower and fruit all year round, though in others it tends to have two flowering periods a year[299 ]. Annual fruit yield increases with the age of the plant up to about 15 years, with the greatest increase occurring between the first and third year[299 ]. In a field trial in Ethiopia, different cultivars yielded from 1,050 - 2,750 kg/ha of dried fruits, with a saponin content of 20 - 25%[299 ]. The yield of dry fruits can increase to 3,000 kg/ha in the fourth year after planting, slowly rising to a maximum of about 4,000 kg/ha[299 ]. The content of saponins varies seasonally: fruits harvested during the dry season just before the onset of the rains have the highest content.[299 ]. The harvested fruits must be dried immediately after collection in the open under shade or in the sun. Whole and powdered fruits can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 years without losing potency. Crushed fresh fruits or solutions prepared from them lose their potency within a few days. While grinding the dried fruits care should be taken protect the eyes from the irritating dust[299 ]. Young plants establish well and grow away quickly. From seed, they commence flowering when only two years old, whilst from cuttings they flower when only 6 months old[299 ]. A well-established plant has only a few but long roots that reach great depths[299 ]. Several highly molluscicidal and productive cultivars have been selected, and agronomic trials of the plant have been effected in eastern and southern Africa[299 ]. A dioecious species - both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seeds are required.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

Seed - germination can be improved by scarification with sand. The seed takes about 14 days to germinate[299 ]. Fruits can be stored for up to one year without loss of viability, but after 4 years of storage, germination declines by 14%[299 ]. Cuttings of non-woody shoots with 2 - 3 nodes, taken from the top or middle part of the plant[299 ]. Rooting occurs with or without application of plant growth regulators[299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Indod, Lisasingo, Lisingo, Lisilingo, Okomofo, african soap berry, african soapberry, endod, fitolaca, gopo berry, phytolaque, soap berry, soapberry, umuhoko.

Africa, Cameroon, Central Africa, Congo DR, Congo R, East Africa, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinée, America, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Southern Africa, Tanzania, West Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Petiveria alliaceaGuinea Hen WeedPerennial1.0 9-12 FLMHSNM043
Phytolacca acinosaIndian PokePerennial1.5 7-10  LMHSNM231
Phytolacca americanaPokeweed, American pokeweed, Garnet, Pigeon Berry, PokePerennial2.0 4-8 FLMHSNM332
Phytolacca dioicaBella SombraTree4.0 8-11  LMHSNM201
Phytolacca esculenta Perennial1.0 5-9  LMHSNM221

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment



Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

Readers comment

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Phytolacca dodecandra  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.