Polygonum viviparum L.
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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: Betula nana, Carex aquatilis, Dasiphora floribunda, Larix laricina, Picea mariana, Vaccinium uliginosum
Provincial Status According
to Harms (2003):
Nature Conservancy Status:
G5 S1S2
Saskatchewan Species at
Risk Status:
Polygonum viviparum is threatened because it is rare or uncommon in Saskatchewan. It is only somewhat regionally restricted but 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, corm-like
Stems: solitary to 2, erect, simple, glabrous
Leaves: mostly basal, cauline leaves 2 – 4; petiole attached to sheath, unwinged distally, 5 – 100 mm long; blade 1 – 8 cm long, 5 – 15 mm long, linear to lanceolate, base cuneate to cordate, pubescent on abaxial surface, glaucous on adaxial surface, margin entire and usually revolute; ocrea open down one side, brown, scarious
Inflorescence: raceme solitary, terminal, 2 – 9 cm long, 4 – 10 mm wide, spicate, dense, usually with pink to brown bulblets; peduncle 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: achenes rarely produced, dark brown, dull
1 Flowers solitary or in small axillary clusters or open racemes; leaves jointed at the base with the petiole, small; outer tepals may be keeled; ocrea often hyaline, 2-lobed
1 Flowers in spicate racemes; leaves not jointed at the base with the petiole, large; outer tepals may be winged or unwinged, but not keeled (except in P. cilinode and P. convolvulus); ocrea chartaceous
2 Inflorescence compact
2 Inflorescence a slender, open raceme
3 Achenes black, smooth and shiny; tepals rounded
P. spergulariiforme
3 Achenes 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 pedicels
P. douglasii ssp. douglasii
5 Flowers ascending or spreading
6 Achenes shiny; leaves linear to lanceolate
P. ramosissimum
6 Achenes dull; leaves oval
7 Perianth bottle-shaped, outer tepal hooded
P. achoreum
7 Perianth not constricted below the apex, outer tepal not hooded
8 Leaves on the branches the same size as the ones attached directly to the stem; calyx 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; calyx with white, pink or purple margins
P. aviculare
9 Stems slender and twining; leaves broad, base hastate
9 Stems not twining; leaves linear to lanceolate, base not hastate
10 Ocrea with a ring of bristles
P. cilinode (= Fallopia cilinodes)
10 Ocrea lacking bristles
11 Fruiting calyx to 5 mm long, wings small; plants annual
P. convolvulus var. convolvulus (= Fallopia convolvulus)
11 Fruiting calyx to 1.5 cm long, wings broad; plants perennial
P. scandens var. scandens (= Fallopia scandens)
12 Leaves mainly basal, cauline leaves few and reduced
P. viviparum (= Bistorta vivipara)
12 Leaves mainly cauline, well-developed
13 Ocrea with bristles at the summit
13 Ocrea without bristles
14 Rhizomes forking; perennials; ocrea expanded at the top to create a flange; spikes to 2 cm thick; perianth not glandular
P. amphibium var. stipulaceum (= Persicaria amphibia)
14 Roots fibrous; ocrea not expanded at the top; spikes slender, less than 2 cm thick; perianth 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 Petioles attached near base of ocrea; leaves and upper stems glabrous to sparsely strigose
P. coccineum var. coccineum (= Persicaria amphibia)
16 Petioles attached midway on ocrea; leaves and upper stems densely ashy-gray pubescent
P. coccineum var. pratincola (= Persicaria amphibia)