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  • Paul Tappenden

Pokeberries to the Rescue

There have been occasions on which my plant knowledge has come in handy, outside of their uses as food or medicine. I recall a time, for instance, when I used to work in the movie business. We were sent out to East Hampton, NY, to shoot at a beach location,.

As I was the standby scenic artist, I was asked to paint the ends of some arrows with fake blood. I asked the prop department, but they didn't any fake blood on hand (would you believe!). I looked through my paint colors, but nothing came close. The red paint looked just like red paint (and besides, it dried flat). The nearest paint store was about an hour away, and they needed these props ready for the next scene. This was the time that folks usually switched into panic mode, and I was no exception. If I was somewhat distraught at having this challemge with no apparent answer, the our PA (given the task of making all this happen), was ready to donate his own blood, rather than tell them it couldn’t be done.

Fortunately, I had scouted out the area ahead of time, to see what was growing there, so I immediately knew what I needed to do. My wild crafting skills were about to save the day.

I told the PA to get me a stove and a pan, while I clambered off across the dunes, to find the Pokeweed bush I had seen earlier. I soon returned with several clusters of shiny, black berries. I began to pluck them off the stems, until I had filled a cup (and had dyed my fingers a bright magenta).

The production assistant returned, having found me a stove, which he had managed to borrow f, but he couldn’t find a pan, so he had commandeered a large metal lid. We soon had the berries in the lid, sitting over the flame. As the berries heated and began to burn, their juices turn from bright magenta to a rich blood red. After cooling off the lid, we poured the thick juice into a coffee cup. I added a little clear acrylic as a binder, and the blood was ready to go. When I smeared it onto the arrow heads, it looked frighteningly realistic.

The scene went without a hitch, and nobody except two of us knew what it had taken to make it happen

This fake blood I made for Halloween shows how realistic the Poke berry blood can be. Leaving some seeds in the juice, resembles blood clots


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