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Polygonum lapathifolium L.

Nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassCaryophyllidaeCacti, many other succulents, carnivorous plants, and leadworts
OrderCaryophyllalesIncludes cacti, carnations, amaranths, ice plants, and many carnivorous plants
FamilyPolygonaceaeKnotweed or smartweed family
GenusPolygonumGreek poly, “many,” and gonu, “knee,” for the swollen jointed stems
Specieslapathifolium“Like Lapathum,” (now the genus is called Rumex)

About plant names...

Nodding smartweed is a North American native. The genus Polygonum means “many knees”—a reference to the swollen, jointed sheaths the are found wherever leaf stems meet the vine. They are found in wet areas, such as swamps.

Plants: 24-60" (60-152 cm) high, usually upright, some­times sprawling (the stems aren’t very strong), with green or deep red hairless stems.

Leaves: Alternate, typically lanceolate but variable in shape, fatter at the base and tapering to a sharp tip, 1¾-10" (5-25 cm) × ½-1¾" (1.5-5 cm). Petioles are ⅜-¾" (1-2 cm). Leaves have tiny, hooklike hairs that make them feel rough. They are not mottled. Where each leaf stem meets the main stem, there is a thick sheathlike joint (ocrea that is brownish, tubular, ½-1" (1.5-3 cm) long, with few or no hairs.

Flowers: Greenish-white to pink, in columns about ¼-⅜" (6.3-9.5 mm) in diameter and 1-3" (2.5-7.6 cm) long. Numerous clusters may be upright, arched, or drooping. The tiny, individual flowers never actually open.

Fruits: Egg-shaped, less than ¹/₁₆" (2 mm) long, brown to black, glossy, containing a single seed.

Some similar species:

 

Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed)

9/4/2020 · Wilson’s Cove Trail, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, Harpswell, Maine
≈ 2½ × 3½" (7.3 × 9.4 cm)

Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed)

10/5/2016 · Pine Meadow Conservation Area, Ayer, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 10 × 6" (24 × 16 cm)

Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed)

8/17/2013 · Hopkinton State Park, Hopkinton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 6 × 9" (16 × 23 cm) ID is uncertain

 
Polygonum amphibium

Polygonum cespitosum

Polygonum hydropiperoides
Common Name

water smartweed

Oriental lady’s thumb

mild water-pepper
Plant Up to 9½' (3 m) × ⅜" (1 cm), sprawling or floating. Up to 3' (91 cm) in size, sprawling or erect. 6-39" (15-100 cm) long, but slender and with upper portions usually erect, erect to sprawling. Stems are green to red. (Compare to P. amphibium, with stems up to ⅜" (1 cm) around, and more often sprawled along the surface of the water).
Flowers Pink, appearing in a thick oval cluster of tiny five-lobed flowers. The cluster is ¾-6" (2-15 cm) long. Each individual flower is ⅛-³/₁₆" (4-5 mm) in diameter. Flowers appear June to September. Pink/white flower spikes are ¾-1½" (1.9-3.8 cm) tall × ¹/₁₆-³/₁₆" (3-6 mm) thick, densely filled with individual flowers less than ¼" (6.3 mm) in size. (By contrast, P. persicaria has flower stalks ⅛-⅜" (6-12 mm) thick.) Flowers appear from June to October. Greenish, pinkish, or white flowers form loose, elongated spikes 1-3" (3-8 cm) long and ¹/₁₆-⅛" (2-5 mm) around. The spikes are on peduncles ⅜-1" (1-3 cm) long.
Leaves Alternate, and often lanceolate, but they take on many other shapes. They may be floating or upright, with papery sheaths at leaf bases. They are ¾-8" (2-20 cm) × ⅛-1¾" (5-50 mm), with petioles ¹/₃₂-1" (1-30 mm). They are not mottled. Alternate, elliptic to lanceolate, ¾-3" (2-7.5 cm) × ⅜-1¼" (1-3.5 cm), and pointed at the base and tip. Petioles are ¹/₃₂-⅛" (1-5 mm). Leaves are not mottled. Alternate, lanceolate, bristly, with smooth edges. Floating or upright, up to 1¾-6" (5-15 cm) × ⅜-⅞" (1-2.5 cm), tapering to a sharp point. Petioles are less than ⅛" (5 mm) long. Leaves are not mottled.
Stem Ocrea are ⅛-1¾" (5-50 mm), with the upper part fringed with small hairs 0.5-4.5 mm long. Ocrea encompassing the joints are long-bristly, and ⅛-⅜" (4-12 mm) long,, vs. less than ⅛" (5 mm) for P. persicaria. Ocrea are brown, cylindric, and ⅛-⅞" (5-23 mm) long, with an inflated base, topped with hairs ¹/₁₆-⅜" (2-10 mm).
Fruit Tiny brown rounded achenes ¹/₁₆-⅛" (2.5-3 mm) long. Each achene contains one seed. They appear from July to September. A black achene with a triangular cross section. Dry, hard, smooth, shiny achenes each contain a single seed. They are ¹/₃₂-⅛" (1.5-3 mm) long, and three-sided.
Range/ Zones

Habitats Floating in ponds, streams, and marshes Common to invasive in disturbed habitats such as pastures, roadsides, and lawns. It is partial to wet areas. Often forming mats along lake or pond margins.
Type Wild Wild Wild

 

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Polygonum lapathifolium

Polygonum persicaria
Common Name

nodding smartweed

lady’s thumb
Plant 24-60" (60-152 cm) high, usually upright, some­times sprawling, with green or deep red hairless stems. Up to 3' (91 cm) in height. Stems are openly branched and often reddish.
Flowers Greenish-white to pink, in columns about ¼-⅜" (6.3-9.5 mm) in diameter and 1-3" (2.5-7.6 cm) long. Numerous clusters may be upright, arched, or drooping. The tiny, individual flowers never actually open. Tiny pink and white flowers form groups of spikes ½-1½" (1.3-3.8 cm) long. Flowers appear from June to July.
Leaves Alternate, typically lanceolate but variable in shape, fatter at the base and tapering to a sharp tip, 1¾-10" (5-25 cm) × ½-1¾" (1.5-5 cm). Petioles are ⅜-¾" (1-2 cm). Leaves have tiny, hooklike hairs that make them feel rough. They are not mottled. Alternate, lanceolate to elliptic, 1-8" (2.5-20 cm) long × ¼-2" (6.3-50 mm) wide. Petioles are ⅛-¼" (5-8 mm). Leaves often have a dark purplish triangular or lunate patch on them.
Stem The ocreas are brownish, tubular, ½-1" (1.5-3 cm) long, with few or no hairs. Ocreas have hairs that extend up to ¹/₁₆" (2 mm) from the top.
Fruit Egg-shaped, less than ¹/₁₆" (2 mm) long, brown to black, glossy, containing a single seed. Brown to black, glossy, with one seed. They are roughly egg-shaped, but somewhat angular. Each fruit is less than ¹/₁₆" (2 mm) long. Fruits appear from July to September.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 4-8
Habitats Margins of water bodies, pastures, orchards, irrigated crop fields, and rice fields. Disturbed soils that are wet or seasonally wet, such as ditches, pastures, grain fields, and water edges.
Type Wild Wild

 

Online References:

Polygonum lapathifolium on

Polygonum lapathifolium on

Polygonum lapathifolium on ipm.ucanr.edu

Polygonum lapathifolium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Polygonum lapathifolium on CalPhotos

Polygonum lapathifolium on the Connecticut Botanical Society's Connecticut wildflowers site

Polygonum lapathifolium on wric.ucdavis.edu (PDF)

Polygonum lapathifolium on SEINet—the Southwest Environmental Information Network

References:

Clemants, Steven; Gracie, Carol, Wildflowers in the Field and Forest, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 76

Weakley, Alan S.; Ludwig, J. Christopher; Townsend, John F.; Crowder, Bland (Ed.), Flora of Virginia, Botanical Research Institute of Texas Press, 2013, p. 812

Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed)

10/17/2011 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 12 × 8" (31 × 20 cm) ID is uncertain

Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed)

10/5/2016 · Pine Meadow Conservation Area, Ayer, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 7 × 5" (18 × 13 cm)

Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed)

9/9/2017 · Habitat Loop Trail, Pine Meadow Conservation Trust Land, Groton Harvard Road, Ayer, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 4½ × 5" (12 × 13 cm)

Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed)

9/9/2017 · Habitat Loop Trail, Pine Meadow Conservation Trust Land, Groton Harvard Road, Ayer, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 4½ × 5" (12 × 13 cm)

Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed)

8/17/2013 · Hopkinton State Park, Hopkinton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 3½ × 5" (9.1 × 12 cm) ID is uncertain

Persicaria incarnata (Elliot) Small

Polygonum incarnatum Elliot

Persicaria lapathifolia (L.) Gray

Persicaria tomentosa (Schrank) E.P. Bicknell

Polygonum incanum F.W. Schmidt

Polygonum lapathifolium L. var. incanum (F.W. Schmidt) W.D.J. Koch

Polygonum lapathifolium L. var. nodosum (Pers.) Small

Polygonum lapathifolium L. var. ovatum A. Braun

Polygonum lapathifolium L. ssp. pallidum (With.) Fr.

Polygonum lapathifolium L. var. prostratum Wimm.

Polygonum lapathifolium L. var. salicifolium Sibth.

Polygonum nodosum Pers.

Polygonum oneillii Brenckle

Polygonum pensylvanicum L. ssp. oneillii (Brenckle) Hultén

Polygonum scabrum Moench

Polygonum tomentosum Schrank

Persicaria incarnata (Elliot) Small

Polygonum incarnatum Elliot

Persicaria incarnata (Elliott) Small

Polygonum incarnatum Elliott

 

Polygonum lapathifolium description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 8 Sep 2021.

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Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed)

9/10/2016 · Arlington St., Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts

Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed)

10/17/2011 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 9 × 6" (23 × 15 cm) ID is uncertain

Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed)

10/17/2011 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 9 × 6" (23 × 15 cm) ID is uncertain

Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed)

9/4/2020 · Wilson’s Cove Trail, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, Harpswell, Maine
≈ 4 × 6" (10 × 15 cm)

Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed)

9/9/2017 · Habitat Loop Trail, Pine Meadow Conservation Trust Land, Groton Harvard Road, Ayer, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 7 × 4½" (16 × 12 cm)

Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed)

8/28/2021 · Otter Brook Preserve, Harpswell, Maine
≈ 5 × 3½" (13 × 9 cm)

Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed, pale smartweed, dock-leaved smartweed)

9/4/2020 · Wilson’s Cove Trail, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, Harpswell, Maine
≈ 4 × 5" (10 × 13 cm)

Range:

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