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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Polygonum coccineum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Polygonaceae
Genus: Polygonum

Between 150-300 species; see text

Polygonum is a genus in the buckwheat family Polygonaceae. Common names of polygonum species include knotweed, knotgrass, bistort, tear-thumb, mile-a-minute, and several others. In the Middle English glossary of herbs "Alphita" (ca. 1400-1425), it was known as ars-smerte.[1] There have been various opinions about how broadly the genus should be defined. Buckwheat for example has sometimes been included in the genus.

The genus primarily grows in northern temperate regions. They vary widely from prostrate herbaceous annual plants under 5 cm high, others erect herbaceous perennial plants growing to 3–4 m tall, and yet others perennial woody vines growing to 20–30 m high in trees; several are also aquatic, growing as floating plants in ponds. The smooth-edged leaves vary greatly in shape between species, and can be narrow lanceolate, oval, broad triangular, heart shaped or arrowhead shaped; they range from 1–30 cm long. The stems are often reddish or red-speckled. The flowers are small, pink, white, or greenish, forming in summer in dense clusters from the leaf joints or stem apices.

The genus name is traditionally believed to be derived from the Greek poly, "many" and gonu, "knee" in reference to the swollen jointed stem nodes, but grammatically gone means "seed"[2]

Polygonum species are occasionally eaten by humans and are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species - see list of Lepidoptera that feed on Polygonum, a number are considered weedy, especially in moisture retentive soils in the USA.


Distribution and Uses

Several species can be eaten cooked,[3] for example during famines.[4]. The variety Polygonum cognatum known locally as "madimak" [5] [6][7]is regularly consumed in central parts of Turkey.


Between 65[2]–300 species are recognised depending on the circumscription of the genus; some botanists divide the genus up into several smaller genera, including Fagopyrum, Fallopia and Persicaria.

The genus Polygonella has a number of morphological similarities with Polygonum and some authors have included Polygonella in Polygonum.[2]

Selected species include:


Reclassified as Fagopyrum

Reclassified as Fallopia

Reclassified as Persicaria

Flowerhead of Persicaria maculata (syn. Polygonum persicara)
  • Polygonum affine (Persicaria affinis)
  • Polygonum alatum (Persicaria alata)
  • Polygonum alpinum – alpine knotweed (Persicaria alpina)
  • Polygonum amphibium – amphibious bistort, longroot smartweed, water smartweed, (Persicaria amphibia)
  • Polygonum amplexicaule (Persicaria amplexicaulis)
  • Polygonum bistortabistort (Persicaria bistorta)
  • Polygonum campanulatum – lesser knotweed, bellflower smartweed, (Persicaria campanulata) (Reynoutria campanulatum)
  • Polygonum capitatum - pinkhead smartweed, (Persicaria capitata)
  • Polygonum emodi (Persicaria emodi)
  • Polygonum filiforme (Persicaria virginiana)
  • Polygonum hydropiperwater-pepper (Persicaria hydropiper)
  • Polygonum lapathifolium – pale persicaria or nodding smartweed (Persicaria lapathifolia)
  • Polygonum longisetum (Persicaria longiseta)
  • Polygonum macrophyllum (Persicaria macrophylla)
  • Polygonum milletii (Persicaria milletii)
  • Polygonum minus – small water-pepper (Persicaria minor)
  • Polygonum mite – tasteless water-pepper (Persicaria mitis, Persicaria laxiflora)
  • Polygonum molle (Persicaria mollis)
  • Polygonum nepalense (Persicaria nepalensis)
  • Polygonum odoratumVietnamese coriander (Persicaria odorata)
  • Polygonum orientale (Persicaria orientalis)
  • Polygonum pensylvanicum – Pennsylvania smartweed or pink knotweed or pinkweed (Persicaria pensylvanica)
  • Polygonum persicariaredshank or persicaria or lady's thumb (Persicaria maculosa)
  • Polygonum polystachyum = Polygonum wallichii
  • Polygonum runciforme (Persicaria runcinata)
  • Polygonum sagittatum – arrowleaf tearthumb, American tear-thumb or scratchgrass (Persicaria sagittata)
  • Polygonum tenuicaule (Persicaria tenuicaulis)
  • Polygonum tinctorium (Persicaria tinctoria)
  • Polygonum vaccinifolium (Persicaria vaccinifolia)
  • Polygonum virginianum (Persicaria virginiana)
  • Polygonum viviparumalpine bistort (Persicaria vivipara)
  • Polygonum wallichii – Himalayan knotweed (Persicaria wallichii)
  • Polygonum weyrichii (Persicaria weyrichii)


  1. ^ Middle English Dictionary
  2. ^ a b c "Polygonum". Flora of North America. 
  3. ^ Knotweed at NorthernBushCraft
  4. ^ Łukasz Łuczaj (2008). "Archival data on wild food plants used in Poland in 1948". J Ethnobiol Ethnomed 4 (4): 4. doi:10.1186/1746-4269-4-4. PMID 18218132. 
  5. ^ See the article in Turkish:
  6. ^ See the preparation of one particular dish in Turkey using polygonum cognatum:
  7. ^ One more dish based on "madimak" polygonum cognatum:

External links


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