Lady's Thumb

Scientific Name(s): Polygonum persicaria
Abundance: common
What: leaves
How: cooked
Where: moist, sunny areas
When: spring, summer
Nutritional Value: assorted vitamins & minerals
Dangers: none known

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves are arranged in an alternate pattern along the stem.

Leaf Shape: The leaves are lanceolate to elliptic, usually measuring about 2 to 6 inches in length and 0.5 to 1 inch in width. A short sheath will run down the stem from the base of the leaf.

Leaf Venation: Leaf venation is pinnate, with a central vein and smaller veins branching off to the sides.

Leaf Margin: The leaf margins are entire, meaning they are smooth without serrations or teeth.

Leaf Color: The leaves are generally green, but they often have a distinctive dark blotch in the center. This splotch can range from a thick "V" to a roundish blotch. How pronounced the sploch is depends on the age of the leaf, with it becoming more distinctive as the leaf ages.

Flower Structure: Flowers are small, grouped in dense, elongated spikes located at the tip of the stem or arising from leaf axils. Each flower is typically around 0.1 to 0.2 inches in diameter.

Flower Color: The flowers are usually pink to red.

Fruit: The plant produces a small, black, shiny nutlet as its fruit.

Seed: The seed is enclosed within the nutlet, which is about 0.1 inch in diameter, round, and black.

Stem: The stem is slender, often reddish, and can be smooth or slightly hairy.

Hairs: There may be fine hairs along the stem and the underside of the leaves.

Height: The plant usually grows to about 1 to 3 feet in height.

Lady's thumb. The dark "V" stain is supposed to look like the thumbprint of a lady.

Lady's Thumb (note the dark smudge on the leaf between the 3" and 4" section of the ruler)

"Smudge-free" lady's thumb.

A stand of lady's thumb blooming along Spring Creek.
Smartweed Ladys Thumb Flowers

Close-up of flowers.
Smartweed Ladys Thumb

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

This "weed" prefers moist, sunny locations on the banks of streams and lakes but it can occasionally be found in much drier locations. It will usually be in clumps and standing approximately 18"-24" tall. In early summer the pink flowers will appear in small, round clusters at the tops of the stems. From a distance these flowers will make the whole clump of plants look pink.

A delicious potherb, simply boil the leaves for 8-10 minutes then serve with butter or roasted garlic or bits of bacon or all of those combined. It is better to cook it than to eat it raw because bacteria from the water this plant grows along can contaminate the leaves.

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