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Amphibious Bistort

Persicaria amphibia

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Polygonaceae (Dock)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
40 centimetres tall
Grassland, mud, wasteland, water.

Pink, 5 petals
Pink compact spike, 5 petals.
Dark brown to black, round, flattened achene.
The alternate leaves are short-stalked and with tapered bases. The leaf blades are long, narrow, hairy and sometimes tinged red. The submerged leaves are slightly different; they are hairless, have rounded bases and normally float on the surface of the water in which they stand.
Other Names:
Devil's Shoestring, Floating Polygonum, Ground Willow, Longroot Smallweed, Swamp Knotweed, Tansy Mustard, Tanweed, Water Buckwheat, Water Heart's-ease, Water Knotweed, Water Smartweed, Water Willow, Willow Grass.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Persicaria amphibia, also known as water smartweed or amphibious bistort, is a perennial herb native to Europe and Asia. It is a member of the Polygonaceae family and is closely related to plants such as rhubarb and buckwheat. Water smartweed is characterized by its small, pink or white flowers and narrow, lance-shaped leaves. It is a herbaceous plant that grows in a variety of habitats, including wetland areas such as marshes, swamps, and riverbanks. Water smartweed is not commonly cultivated and is not typically used for ornamental purposes. However, it is valued by some for its medicinal properties and is sometimes used as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments, including digestive disorders and skin conditions.


Amphibious Bistort, also known as Persicaria amphibia, is a species of flowering plant that is native to wetland habitats in the Northern Hemisphere. This plant is a member of the buckwheat family and is known for its long, thick roots, which allow it to tolerate wet conditions and make it a valuable resource for erosion control.

One of the key features of Amphibious Bistort is its ability to grow in both aquatic and terrestrial environments. It can be found in wetlands, bogs, and riverbanks and is able to tolerate long periods of flooding and submergence. This versatility makes it an ideal choice for restoring and stabilizing wetland habitats.

In terms of appearance, Amphibious Bistort has green leaves that are lance-shaped and grow in a rosette pattern. The plant produces spikes of pink or white flowers in the summer, which are popular with pollinators like bees and butterflies.

In addition to its environmental benefits, Amphibious Bistort also has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Its roots contain a number of compounds that have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, making it a useful remedy for a variety of ailments.

Despite its numerous benefits, Amphibious Bistort is threatened by habitat loss and degradation in many parts of the world. It is considered a species of conservation concern in some regions, and there are efforts underway to protect and restore populations of this important plant.

Aside from its ecological and cultural importance, Amphibious Bistort also has a number of ornamental uses. It is a popular choice for water gardens, rock gardens, and rain gardens, where it can add interest and beauty to the landscape. The plant's delicate spikes of pink or white flowers are particularly eye-catching, and its lush green leaves provide a striking contrast against the water and surrounding vegetation.

In terms of cultivation, Amphibious Bistort is a relatively easy plant to grow, as long as it is planted in a moist, well-drained soil. It can be propagated from root cuttings or by dividing the rootstock, and it will grow in full sun or partial shade.

Despite its hardiness, Amphibious Bistort is susceptible to a number of pests and diseases. Some common problems include root rot, rust, and insect infestations, which can damage the plant and reduce its vigor. To avoid these issues, it is important to plant Amphibious Bistort in a healthy and well-drained soil and to provide adequate water and nutrients.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in using Amphibious Bistort for phytoremediation, which is the use of plants to clean up contaminated environments. The plant's ability to grow in wet, nutrient-rich environments makes it a good candidate for removing heavy metals and other contaminants from the water and soil.

Amphibious Bistort is a very versatile plant, and its uses go beyond just environmental and ornamental purposes. The plant's root has been used as a food source for centuries, and it has a long history of medicinal use as well.

The root of Amphibious Bistort is starchy and can be cooked and consumed like a potato. It was a valuable food source for indigenous people in Northern hemisphere and still consumed in some regions today. Some people also use the root to make flour, which can be used for baking or as a thickener for soups and stews.

In traditional medicine, the root of Amphibious Bistort was used to treat a wide range of ailments, including digestive problems, skin conditions, and respiratory infections. The root is rich in compounds such as tannins and flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and astringent properties.

In modern times, scientific research has confirmed the medicinal properties of Amphibious Bistort, and it is now widely recognized as a valuable resource for natural health care. It is commonly used in herbal medicine to treat conditions such as diarrhea, digestive disorders, and skin irritation.

Another important aspect of Amphibious Bistort is its impact on wildlife. This plant is an important food source for a variety of aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, including beavers, muskrats, and waterfowl. The leaves, stems, and roots of the plant provide critical habitat and food for many species, making it an important contributor to the health and diversity of wetland ecosystems.

In conclusion, Amphibious Bistort is a plant that has many valuable uses and benefits. Its versatility as a food, medicine, and wildlife resource make it an important part of the natural landscape and a valuable resource for human communities. Whether you are a conservationist, gardener, or health enthusiast, this fascinating plant has something to offer.


Amphibious Bistort filmed at Worthington Lakes, Lancashire on the 12th July 2022.


Music credits
Heading West by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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