Fall Wildflowers of New England
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Lady's Thumb
Polygonum persicaria
F. Polygonaceae
General Description:

Lady's Thumb is a small, low-lying wildflower approximating 20-80 cm. in height. This plant is best characterized by its dense, spike-like, elongated cluster of small dark pink or purple grain-like flowers. These flowers are arranged along a thin, vibrant green, fibrously robust stem. Lady's Thumb leaves are long and lanceolate having the same vibrant green color of the stem.

Polygonum persicaria
Flowers:

Flowers are approximately 4 mm. in length and are dark pink or purple in color. Each bloom has 4-6 sepals but are completely absent of petals forming slightly ovate grain-like structures. Flowers are arranged in elongated clusters approximately 1.5-5 cm. in width and varying in height.

Fruit:

The seed-like fruit are small, glossy black and three-sided.

Leaves:

leaves of the Lady's Thumb are narrowly lanceolate and long. These leaves are easily identified by a prominent dark green smudge spanning perpendicularly across the half-way point of the light green mid-vein. However, this marking is sometimes absent and often apparent on other species of wildflower, A light-green, fringed sheath surrounds the stem at every petiole-stem fusion point. Leaves are arranged in an alternate fashion below the flower cluster.

Habitat:

Land's Thumb grows best in damp clearings, along roadsides, and is also cultivated in gardens.

Fun Facts:

Lady's Thumb is a medicinal plant. Native Americans used the leaves in treatments of stomach pains and poison ivy. They also rubbed the plant on their horses as an insect repellant.

Lady's Thumb, along with various species of Smartweed are a part of the buckwheat family. By this, they are a popular and reliable food source for many animals.

Introduced from Europe, Lady's Thumb is a competitor of commercial crops such as cereals, berries, and vegetables. The small seeds of this plant are often found as contaminants within commercial grain.

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