Dotted Smartweed

Dotted_Smartweed_jpgMembers of this family (Polygonaceae), commonly called the Buckwheat or Smartweed family, include 51 genera and 1,150 species.  Polu means “many” and gonu means “knee” for the swollen stem joints of many species.  Food plants in this family include Buckwheat, Sorrel and Rhubarb. The flowers and leaves of Dotted Smartweed contain an oil which stings the tongue and lips of people, thus the name “Smartweed”. Another species in this genus, Water Pepper (Polygonum hydropiper) was used by Native Americans as treatment for bloody urine, as an astringent, for stomachache, and to prevent abortion. The plant was poulticed (soft, moist mass of plant parts wrapped and applied warm or hot to the skin) for applications to swellings, and to treat inflammations and pain.  A decoction (medicine prepared by boiling thick parts of plant; ingested hot or cold) was taken for fever, chills, and in small amounts for indigestion. Water pepper was also used as a fish poison. Other members of the Smartweed family (persicaria andviviparum) are edible as cooked vegetable.  Root stocks can be eaten raw or boiled, but are best roasted.Smartweeds provide food for waterfowl, marsh birds and shorebirds, upland game birds, songbirds and small mammals.  Fur and game animals eat the plants and seeds.



Polygonum punctatum


Freshwater Wetlands






to 3 ½ feet


Late July to October


Statewide in New Jersey outside the Pine Barrens


Mid July to October


Erect herbaceous plant ~ Stems jointed and sheathed above each joint ~ Leaves simple, smooth, lance shaped, 8 inches long ~ Flowers whitish to greenish, in straight spikes ~ Seeds brown to black