Polygonum bistorta L. - Bistort.

Systematic position.

Family Polygonaceae Juss., genus Polygonum L.


Bistorta major S.F.Gray, Persicaria bistorta (L.) Samp.

Biological group.

Perennial rhizomatous weed.

Morphology and biology.

Plant is 30-100 cm in height with highly developed root system; the latter is a thick, slightly oblate, serpentine-bent, lignescent rhizome producing numerous thin diverging roots. The rhizome is dark-red with brown hue; its fresh tissue is fulvous-pink; and its upper part has numerous scars, which are the traces of leaves and stems. Stems are single, less often multiple, erected, unbranched, glabrous, with 5-6 nodes. Root leaves are often large, with long winged petioles, ovate-oblong, pointed, with slightly sinuate edges, cuneate or slightly cordate at base, dove-colored from below, dark-green from above, glabrous, rarely with short curly hairs. Upper stem leaves are nearly sessile, smaller and narrower; the uppermost ones are nearly linear. Stipules accrete into tubular, fulvous, and glabrous ocrea having lanceolate tip and surrounding lower part of internodes. The inflorescence is a dense, stout, cylindrical spike. Flowers are actinomorphous, pink, less often white or reddish, with scarious, sharply pointed bracts; perianth is divided into five parts near the base. Fruit is a triangular, glabrous, shiny brown nutlet. This plant flowers in May-June and bears fruits in June-July. It reproduces by seeds and vegetatively.


Western Europe, Japan, China, Mongolia, Iran, Asia Minor, North America. Within the Former Soviet Union it is distributed in the European part (except southern regions), Siberia, the Far East, in mountain regions of Central Asia.


P. bistorta is a plant of moist habitats. It grows in water-meadows, grassy bogs, waterlogged banks of water reservoirs, ditches, at the edges and clearings of thin forests, among bush thickets, in subalpine and alpine meadows of mountains, and in mountain tundras. This plant is often connected with acid, peat soils. It can handle semi-shade. P. bistorta is a cold-resistant plant.

Economic significance.

P. bistorta infests forage grasses, vegetable gardens, mainly in northern part of Non-Chernozem zone; in water-logged meadows it often becomes a persistent, difficult to eradicate weed forming dense thickets. Medicinal plant. Control measures: deep plowing.

Reference citations:

Anon. 1996-2003. Polygonum bistorta. Plants for a Future Database. http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Polygonum+bistorta
Chikov, P.S., ed. 1983. Atlas of areas and resources of herbs of the USSR. Moscow: GUGK. 340 p. (in Russian).
Gubanov, I.A., Kiseleva, K.V., Novikov, V.S., Tikhomirov, V.N. 2003. Illustrated keys to plants of Middle Russia. V. 2. Moscow: KMK. 665 p. (in Russian).
Keller, B.A., ed. 1934. Weed plants of the USSR. V. 3. Leningrad: AN SSSR. 448 p. (in Russian).
Komarov, V.L., ed. 1936. Flora of the USSR. V. 5. Moscow-Leningrad: AN SSSR. 762 p. (in Russian).
Nikitin, V.V. 1983. Weed plants of the USSR flora. Leningrad: Nauka. 454 p. (in Russian).
Tsitsin, N.V., ed. 1962. Atlas of medicinal plants of the USSR. Moscow: State Publishing House of Medicinal Literature. 704 p. (in Russian).

© Larina S.Yu.

The image of Polygonum bistorta is taken from the book of Shishkin B.K., ed. (1963) "Botanical atlas" (Moscow & Leningrad: Selkhozgiz, 504 p.). There is no copyright to either the whole book or the pictures themselves.

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