Images: ©Jouko Lehmuskallio

Alpine Bistort

Bistorta vivipara

  • Latin synonym: Polygonum viviparum, Persicaria vivipara
  • Family: Dock Family – Polygonaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rhizome short, thick, contorted.
  • Height: 10–30 cm (4–12 in.). Stem erect, unbranched, glabrous.
  • Flower: Regular, ca. 3.5 mm (0.14 in.) long. Perianth consists of usu. 5 almost completely free segments which are broad, usu. rounded and white or pink. Stamens 8, with purple anthers. Pistil formed from 3 fused carpels. Free styles 3. Inflorescence a spike. Lower flowers replaced by purple bulbils.
  • Leaves: Alternate. Hairless above, hairy and greyish-green underneath. Basal leaves long-stalked, blade elliptic–lanceolate with rounded base. Stem leaves stalkless or short-stalked, blade narrowly elliptic with tapered base and margins rolled under. Stipules fused into a stem-enclosing sheath (an ochrea), ca. 3.5 mm (0.14 in.) long, membranous, almost hairless, partly brown, partly green.
  • Fruit: Achene, rarely produced.
  • Habitats: Moist meadows, yards, margins of dirt tracks, eutrophic fens.
  • Flowering time: June–July.

Alpine bistort is a polymorphous perennial. It reproduces almost exclusively by means of vegetative bulbils which replace the lower flowers of the spicate inflorescence. After falling off, they grow into clones, i.e. individuals that have the same genome as the parent plant. In this manner, numerous slightly differing variants have formed.

The scientific name vivipara means “producing living offspring”. The bulbils contain plenty of energy to provide the new individual with the best possible chances of survival. Sometimes the bulbils start to grow while still attached to the parent plant. In Finland, alpine bistort can be found up to the alpine tundra zone.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family
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