Polygonum viviparum L.
Species Image Gallery
(opens in a new window)
Family: Polygonaceae
Genus: Polygonum
Species Synonyms: Bistorta vivipara (L.) S.F. Gray
Polygonum fugax Small
Polygonum macounii Small ex Macoun
Polygonum viviparum var. alpinum Wahlenb.
Polygonum viviparum var. macounii (Small ex Macoun) Hultén
Common Names: alpine bistort
Canada: Yukon – Mackenzie – Arctic Island – Labrador, south to southern British Columbia – Alberta – northern and east-central Saskatchewan – northern Manitoba – northern Ontario – Ungava – eastern Quebec – Newfoundland, isolated at Lake Superior north shore
Saskatchewan: northern to central Saskatchewan; Clearwater River – Hasbala Lake – Candle Lake – Pasquia Hills
Ecoregion: Mid-Boreal Upland, Mid-Boreal Lowland, Selwyn Lake Upland
Saskatchewan: pond margins, marshy shores, depressions in treed bogs and fens, and shrubby tundra meadows
Associated species: black spruce, bog birch, bog blueberry, shrubby cinquefoil, tamarack, water sedge
Provincial Status According
to Harms (2003):
Nature Conservancy Status:
G5 S1S2
Saskatchewan Species at
Risk Status:
Alpine bistort is threatened because it is rare or uncommon in Saskatchewan. It is only somewhat regionally restricted most local populations are small. No immediate threats are known but may occur in the future.
Height: 8 – 30 cm
Roots: roots fibrous; rhizomes short, sometimes twisted, scaly
Stems: solitary to 2, erect, simple, hairless
Leaves: mostly basal, stem leaves 2 – 4; leaf stalk attached to sheath, unwinged distally, 5 – 100 mm long; blade 1 – 8 cm long, 5 – 15 mm long, linear to lance-shaped, base wedge-shaped to heart-shaped, hairy on lower surface, bluish on upper surface, margin entire and usually rolled under; fused stipules open down one side, brown, dry and membranous
Inflorescence: unbranched, solitary, terminal, 2 – 9 cm long, 4 – 10 mm wide, spike-like, dense, usually with pink to brown bulblets; inflorescence stalk 1 – 5 cm long
Flowers: tepals 2 – 4 mm long, greenish proximally, white or pink distally; stamens included or exserted, some may be poorly developed, anthers reddish to purple
Fruits: fruits rarely produced, dark brown, dull
1 Flowers solitary or in small axillary clusters; leaves jointed at the base with the stalk, small; outer tepals may be boat-shaped; fused stipules often dry and membranous, 2-lobed
1 Flowers in spike-like clusters; leaves not jointed at the base with the stalk, large; outer tepals may be winged or unwinged, but not boat-shaped (except in P. cilinode and P. convolvulus); fused stipules papery
2 Inflorescence compact
2 Inflorescence a slender, open, unbranched
3 Fruits black, smooth and shiny; tepals rounded
P. spergulariiforme
3 Fruits yellowish to dark brown, not shiny; tepals pointed
4 Bracts definitely white-margined; stems to 20 cm tall
P. polygaloides var. confertiflorum
4 Bracts only slightly white-margined, if at all; stems less than 20 cm
P. polygaloides var. kelloggii
5 Flowers on reflexed stalks
P. douglasii ssp. douglasii
5 Flowers ascending or spreading
6 Fruits shiny; leaves linear to lance-shaped
P. ramosissimum
6 Fruits dull; leaves oval
7 Tepals bottle-shaped, outer tepal hooded
P. achoreum
7 Tepals not constricted below the tip, outer tepal not hooded
8 Leaves on the branches the same size as the ones attached directly to the stem; sepals with greenish-white or pink margins
P. arenastrum (= P. aviculare ssp. depressum)
8 Leaves on the branches much smaller than the ones attached directly to the stem; sepals with white, pink or purple margins
P. aviculare
9 Stems slender and twining; leaves broad, base arrow-shaped
9 Stems not twining; leaves linear to lance-shaped, base not arrow-shaped
10 Fused stipules with a ring of bristles
P. cilinode (= Fallopia cilinodes)
10 Fused stipules lacking bristles
11 Fruiting sepals to 5 mm long, wings small; plants annual
P. convolvulus var. convolvulus (= Fallopia convolvulus)
11 Fruiting sepals to 1.5 cm long, wings broad; plants perennial
P. scandens var. scandens (= Fallopia scandens)
12 Leaves mainly basal, stem leaves few and reduced
P. viviparum (= Bistorta vivipara)
12 Leaves mainly on the stem, well-developed
13 Fused stipules with bristles at the summit
13 Fused stipules without bristles
14 Rhizomes forking; perennials; fused stipules expanded at the top to create a rim; spikes to 2 cm thick; tepals not glandular
P. amphibium var. stipulaceum (= Persicaria amphibia)
14 Roots fibrous; fused stipules not expanded at the top; spikes slender, less than 2 cm thick; tepals glandular
P. punctatum var. confertiflorum (= Persicaria punctata)
15 Annuals, terrestrial; roots fibrous; spikes terminal and axillary, numerous
P. lapathifolium var. lapathifolium (= Persicaria lapathifolia)
15 Perennials, often aquatic; rhizomes forking; spikes terminal, solitary or paired
16 Leaf stalks attached near base of fused stipules; leaves and upper stems hairless to sparsely straight-hairy
P. coccineum var. coccineum (= Persicaria amphibia)
16 Leaf stalks attached midway on fused stipules; leaves and upper stems densely ashy-gray hairy
P. coccineum var. pratincola (= Persicaria amphibia)