Bistorta americana Raf.
Bistorta bulbifera (Royle ex Bab.) Greene
Bistorta insularis Soják
Bistorta littoralis Greene
Bistorta macounii (Small ex Macoun) Greene
Bistorta ophioglossa Greene
Bistorta scopulina Greene
Persicaria americana (Meisn.) Ohki
Persicaria vivipara (L.) Ronse Decr.
Polygonum angustifolium D.Don
Polygonum blancheanum Gand.
Polygonum bracteatum Spreng.
Polygonum bulbiferum Royle ex Bab.
Polygonum camptostachys Gand.
Polygonum chevrolatii Gand.
Polygonum fugax Small
Polygonum littorale (Greene) Fedde
Polygonum macounii Small ex Macoun
Polygonum proliferum Houtt.
Polygonum renii L.C.Wang
Polygonum sagittatum americanum Meisn.
Polygonum scopulinum (Greene) Fedde
Polygonum viviparum L.
Common Name: Alpine Bistort
Bistorta vivipara is a herbaceous perennial plant growing from a rhizomatous rootstock. It produces clusters of 1 - 3 stems around 8 - 30cm tall, occasionally to 45cm[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine
Although no specific mention has been made for this species, there have been reports that some members of this genus can cause photosensitivity in susceptible people.
Many species also contain oxalic acid (the distinctive lemony flavour of sorrel) - whilst not toxic this substance can bind up other minerals making them unavailable to the body and leading to mineral deficiency. Having said that, a number of common foods such as sorrel and rhubarb contain oxalic acid and the leaves of most members of this genus are nutritious and beneficial to eat in moderate quantities. Cooking the leaves will reduce their content of oxalic acid. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition[
Widespread throughout temperate (especially subalpine) and subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere.
Mountain grassland and wet rocks[
]. Moist to wet spruce or mixed woods along shorelines, moist subalpine woods and meadows, alpine meadows, heaths, nutrient-rich sites; at elevations from near sea level to 4,000 metres[
This is a very cold-hardy plant, being able to tolerate temperatures down to around -35°c when fully dormant[
Succeeds in an ordinary garden soil[
] but prefers a moisture retentive not too fertile soil in sun or part shade[
]. Repays generous treatment[
Bistorta vivipara is highly variable morphologically and cytologically. Robust plants with large leaves, compact spikes, and persistent bulblets have been named subsp. macounii. Abortion of stamens, production of bulblets, and the rarity of fruits suggest that reproduction is largely asexual; fruits and seedlings are rarely produced[
Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[
Plants do not often produce viable seed, reproducing by means of bulbils formed on the lower portion of the flowering stem.
Leaves - raw or cooked[
]. They have a pleasant tart taste when cooked[
Seed - raw or cooked[
]. The seed is not often produced and even when it is, it is rather small and fiddly to utilize. It is rich in starch[
]. It is pickled in Nepal[
Root - raw or cooked[
]. Starchy and pleasant but slightly astringent and rather small[
]. Sweet, nutty and wholesome[
]. The flavour is somewhat like almonds[
]. They taste best when roasted[
]. The roots are traditionally preserved in oil or by freezing[
Bulbils from lower part of flowering stem - raw[
The root is astringent and styptic[
]. It is used in the treatment of abscesses, as a gargle to treat sore throats and spongy gums, and as a lotion for ulcers[
Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. Germination is usually free and easy. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer if they have reached sufficient size. If not, overwinter them in a cold frame and plant them out the following spring after the last expected frosts.
Division in spring or autumn. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.