Also known as - Bistort, Knotweed, Viviparous Knotweed.
Latin synonyms - Bistorta viviparum
Native to Alberta. Perennial.
This common perennial grows in mountain meadows or in cool, moist spots, such as lakesides and riverbanks, at lower elevations. It has a rather short flowering season, spanning late July to early August.
Alpine bistort is a short, slender plant with a column of tiny white or pink flowers. It's between 10 cm and 30 cm tall (between ankle-height and knee-height in human terms).
Below the cluster of white or pink flowers are pinkish purple, bulb-like projections. In addition to reproducing by means of flowers and seeds, alpine bistort can reproduce asexually by forming little purple bulblets -- miniature plants -- that drop off the lower end of the flower cluster and take root. The bulblets sometimes sprout leaves while they're still attached to the parent plant. It is from this capability that the plant gets the Latin name of "viviparum," which means "to bring forth live young."
Most of the lance-shaped, dark green, shiny leaves are at the base of the plant. Alpine bistort belongs to the buckwheat family, and has a starchy rootstock.
Although wild flowers of course are protected in the Weaselhead, and may not be picked, it's interesting to note the many uses to which alpine bistort can be put.
The roots taste like almonds, and can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves can be used in salads or in cooked dishes that call for herbs. The stem can be used to make a yellow dye. When the roots are boiled in water, the resulting liquid has disinfectant properties. It's especially useful as a first aid remedy for insect bites, cuts, and canker sores.
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Recent Alpine Bistort Reports in Alberta
Red Deer County
Dickson Natural Area
Alpine Bistort Hotspots in Alberta
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