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The Laconos Is An Exotic Weed With A Temperament

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Mysterious, tropical, exotic, alluring - this is how the laconos appears in botanical gardens and landscape projects. But on many plots this amazing perennial, its particular beauty revealing at the end of the garden season, only on the eve of the colorful autumn, appears as a weed. And the cultivation of this plant does not resemble the usual exotics, so laconos unpretentious and hardy. And this contrast - the ability to grow without intervention and help and bright appearance - makes the plant even more attractive. And if you surround the laconos with care, it will become the exotic pride of the collection altogether.

The Laconos is an exotic weed with a temperament
Laconose American, or Phytolacca Americana (Phytolacca americana)

Laconose - berry perennial from the category of exotic

Known throughout the world as phytolacca, We have an amazing plant among the exotics is better known under the name of Laconos, although it has many other nicknames - Kermes berries, Jewish Ivy, greasy grass. Although it is not entirely clear whether the phytolacca received its name laconos for its colorful sap, its thickness and viscosity, or for the lacquer sheen of its berries, it is indeed difficult to confuse this plant with any other.

Laconos is known to many, first and foremost, as a medicinal plant. Forgetting about caution, the berries of this plant are actively distributed and consumed. And after all, phytolacca is a plant that, while possessing strong medicinal properties mainly for external use, requires a balanced, careful approach to its intake under the supervision of a doctor. All parts of the laconos are poisonous, and if used improperly can lead to serious health problems. So despite the active use of laconos by official medicine, you should not engage in self-medication, and the poisonous nature of the plant should be taken into account when using in the design of the garden (especially if you have small children). Touching the leaves of the laconos can cause skin irritation, the roots are poisonous, as are the berries. And this should not be forgotten under any circumstances, working with the plant only with appropriate skin protection.

Phytolacca (Phytolacca) are unconditional exotics for us. They came to Europe as weed plants, accidentally introduced, but they quickly enough took root and as a very interesting, low-maintenance large perennial for the second half of the season. In nature, the laconos grows in both Americas, and is found in Asia and Africa. There is growing interest in them here, but as an ornamental crop, phytolacca is still considered something exotic and unusual. Although as a weed that has entered gardens by accident, it occurs frequently and is often removed unidentified.

Laconos stands out for its fleshy rhizomes - thickened, juicy and so unlike the usual herbaceous perennials of our climate. The weight of the roots of adult shrubs fitolakka can reach 10 kg, and the roots are increasingly distributed, penetrate deep into the ground, their main mass is located at a level of 40-50 cm and below. On the rhizome of the laconos there are additional buds of renewal, which, combined with the buds at the base of last year's stems, allow the plant to recover under any circumstances, even after the worst winters. In spring shoots begin to grow vigorously from the buds, and literally within weeks they form quite powerful bushes, surprising the speed of growth.

Laconos are large and powerful plants with shoots up to 2 m high, which in size and appearance resemble shrubs rather than herbaceous plants. The branches are woody, very stout, straight underneath and branching on top. The plant usually develops as a dense sphere with a dense, ornamental, powerful crown that is neat in abrasion. The bark in many laconos is reddish-purple.

The Laconos is an exotic weed with a temperament
Laconos, or Phytolacca (Phytolacca). © Art Drysdale

The exoticism and identity of the plant and the effect of the highly unusual, yet patterned crown give the laconos their leaves. Large, up to 20-30 cm long, entire elliptical leaves sit on the shoots alternately on short, light-colored petioles. Some Phytolacca species have pointed leaves at the ends, while others have leaves that are almost oval. The coarsely serrated edge is also the exception rather than a feature of this plant. Leaves in the laconos are extremely variable in color: the classic light green often changes to a brighter and lettier shade or a darker woodland color. The leaves change color from season to season, from lighter and brighter in spring to muted in summer, but the metamorphosis is most pronounced in fall, when the entire phytolacca turns purple. On top of the shoots, the leaves are most often more lanceolate. The foliage of the plant, especially when rubbed, emits a not very pleasant odor.

A unique feature of the laconops is flowering and fruiting. Gathered in candles and somewhat reminiscent of chestnut blossoms, the inflorescences are erect and dense, lacy, cob-shaped. Inflorescences reach a height of 10-25 cm with a diameter of 5 cm. They contain small white-greenish or white-lilac flowers. Completely repeats the shape and size of inflorescences and coleus. Flowering and fruiting phytolacca appears adorned with luxurious lace candles. The sight is so beautiful that it cannot help but attract the eye. The juicy, berry-like fruits look like raspberries, blackberries or mulberries, other delicious and edible berries. They are extremely appetizing and attractive. But this impression is deceptive, because phytolacca berries are poisonous and their uncontrolled independent consumption even in minimal quantities is very risky. Some laconose fruits are rounded, others consist of single-seeded segments, ribbed. But an invariable feature is the bright gloss of the berries, which look as if lacquered (according to one theory, it was because of this shine that the plant got its native name).

Laconos species and varieties

The genus Laconos (Phytolacca) includes about 25 plant species, most of which are very attractive and unusual. But only three species of Phytolacca, which are considered basic, have "taken root" as cultivated plants. The remaining plants are cultivated mainly for medicinal purposes, under strict control.

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Laconos americana (Phytolacca americana, we still in the catalogs of plants can use the synonym Laconos deciduous - Phytolacca decandra). This plant is considered a reference plant. With bushes up to 2 m tall, Phytolacca americana is adorned with light green, bright oval leaves that create an ornamental pattern on the cushion-shaped bush. Small, lightly lettuce flowers are clustered in erect, slender candles. Flowering of this laconos starts in July and lasts until fall, after blossoming berries develop very quickly, forming even denser pyramids-cobs of rounded shiny berries (from other species this laconos is easy to distinguish just by the shape of the fruit). The ripe berries are almost black. Fruit stems seem to move in waves of color, varying from white to purple and inky. The stalks usually turn bright crimson, decorating the bushes even after the fruits have fallen. Full berry ripening is completed as early as September, and they last a long time on the plant, although such pyramidal decorations can be significantly damaged by birds. Phytolacca retains its attractiveness till the first frosts, it decorates the garden even in October.

Highly ornamental plant is also Laconos berry, or Phytolacca grape (Phytolacca acinosa) - a species actively used in Chinese medicine, containing a very high concentration of saponin and dangerous in the internal use of the rhizomes (this does not prevent at home to eat young shoots and leaves). A plant in which the color of the rhizome repeats that of the flowers (the white-flowered forms always have white roots and the pink-flowered ones have purple roots) is distinguished by darker leaves with a pointed tip and segmented berries, which somewhat resemble blackberries or mulberries.

There is also another species considered very promising, the more compact Laconops polyandra, or Laconops maceous (Phytolacca polyandra). It has much larger leaves, about 30 cm long, combined with a maximum height of one meter of shoots. It blooms only at the end of summer, and the flowers in dense bunches are not pale, but deep purplish-pink. The copulas are glistening black berries.

The Laconos is an exotic weed with a temperament
Laconos polychinaceae, or Laconos clubmoss (Phytolacca polyandra). © Dan Cooper
The Laconos is an exotic weed with a temperament
Laconos americana (Phytolacca americana). © Nutmeg
The Laconos is an exotic weed with a temperament
Laconos berry, or Phytolacca acinosa. © Stefan.lefnaer

Despite the fact that each Laconos dies off its entire above-ground part each year, the plant is a full-fledged perennial. The laconos retains its attractiveness from the beginning of the growth of new shoots until the arrival of severe frosts. Large greenery looks good in the first half of the season as well, although phytolacca demonstrates its full beauty only in autumn. It is one of the most versatile perennials that can create a beautiful attractive spot.

Laconos is used in garden decoration:

  • as a background plant;
  • in landscape plantings;
  • as a flowering decoration of decorative compositions in late summer and autumn;
  • as a cut crop (the inflorescences stand very long);
  • along hedges, fences, hedges, buildings, "boring" walls;
  • for ribbon-flowers;
  • as camouflage and for green screens around rest areas;
  • for large-leaved accents, playing with textures and patterns;
  • as an exot in ceremonial compositions;
  • in groups of shrubs with smaller leaves;
  • as a rootstock under large woody ones with translucent crowns;
  • as a tall soloist in flower beds;
  • in a lawn background of single shrubs.

Conditions required for laconos

This is one of the most unpretentious and hardy perennials you can plant in your garden. In fact, the only thing that needs to be taken care of is sufficiently fertile soil. Poor soil leads to the fact that the laconos grows slowly, will be low, only a "pale copy" of its congeners. Otherwise, it is completely unpretentious. In neutral soils without strong acidity, it can settle in on medium, and light, and heavy soil. Loam loams are ideal for laconos.

Phytolacaceae are light-loving plants that feel great in any bright area. But even in shade, they will still make a great textural accent. Laconos adapt to places with no light quite easily, but shading influences flowering abundance and postpones fructification to a later date.

In order to keep the plant as ornamental as long as possible and not to suffer the first cold weather, it is better to place it in places protected from wind and draught. On windy sites the young shoots may suffer in the event of a bad spring.

Planting plants according to the usual method, but in very deep and wide planting pits, carefully handling the roots.

The Laconos is an exotic weed with a temperament
Laconos, or Phytolacca (Phytolacca)

Care for Laconos

It is believed that this plant can grow as a weed. But high ornamental foliage and abundant flowering with fruiting at all without care can not be achieved. Especially if you planted a variety of phytolacca American. The plant of this species likes abundant watering and suffers greatly from droughts, so if there is an opportunity to introduce regular procedures or at least compensate for the heat, the attractiveness of the laconos will only benefit from this. But if you don't get to water or if you are limited to only 1-2 deep waterings, this laconos will still make you happy. Other phytolacs do not need watering, but in extreme drought they are still welcome.

Other care is reduced to the removal of the above-ground part of the plant after the arrival of frost.

Wintering phytolacca

To preserve not only those buds which are located on rhizomes, but also the main reproductive buds at the bases of shoots during winter in regions with severe winters it is better to mulch phytolacca - to cover with a layer of dry leaves, humus, peat or any other available mulch, creating a 10 cm breach above the plant. That's all the measures by which phytolacca will successfully survive any weather surprises.

Pest and disease control

Phytolacca is rightly considered one of the most resistant garden perennials. Pests and diseases rarely occur on the plant, but phytolacca repels pests from neighboring plants (it is especially efficient against fruit garden pests - sawflies, fruit eaters etc.)

The Laconos is an exotic weed with a temperament
Laconose polyandra, or Laconose clubmoss (Phytolacca polyandra). © Bloom Time

Methods of propagation of Laconos

Sowing Laconos seeds

Phytolacca have a rapid loss of germination, so you need to sow seeds immediately after collection. In the middle belt during early frosts they may not mature, but you can usually gather a crop every year. Sow phytolacca without peeling the pulp of berries, into the soil on the beds. There is no need to deepen the berries too much. After stratification, seeds give active early sprouts in spring, appearing as soon as the soil warms up. The crops develop very quickly, the strongest ones will already give the first inflorescences in the current year, but you should not hurry to transfer the plants to the permanent place. Transplanting is carried out in mid-spring the following year after the emergence of seedlings. Sprouts do not reach their normal size until the third year.

Rootstock division

Phytolacca can be divided into several parts and obtain plants by vegetative method. But it is possible to divide only plants at a young age, because by the five-year mark the rhizome is already strongly buried, its weight is about ten kilograms, without its damage and serious injuries it is impossible to dig out the plant.


The plant actively spreads thanks to birds, often gives self-sowing if berries are left on the bushes. Young seedlings can be used as ready seedlings.