Back in the days before stores---people in the spring time--ATE POKE LEAVES as a salad / food.
The most famous story was from that same area, period of time of SLAVES in the south.
A slave that had been beaten to the point he wanted to die, decided to commit suicide and he was told to NEVER EVER eat poke berries, because they will KILL YOU.
So he decided to kill himself and eat a large amount of poke berries and went behind the barn to die.
The story says he was so healthy the next morning that he did a full day's work.
I will presume he probably had diarrhea or throwing up all night is just my wild guess....no clue; but most none city kids are warned by mothers to NOT EAT THE BERRIES off trees and plants, out of fear they might eat a toxic berry.
SOME PLANTS will kill you----the tomato, potato plants for sure....and others will stop your heart. BAD PLANTS have 1 thing in common-------bitter horrible taste, so animals/humans are not eating them in the first place.
Poke Plants will grow very tall if the root is very old and large.....covered in purple berries.
IF you ever eat a poke berry leaf, it is first spring when the plant first appears-------NOT after it is 10 feet tall.