Scientific name: Polygonum persicaria, Polygonum hydropiper, Polygonum spp.
Abundance: common
What: young leaves, seeds
How: raw, boiled, or steamed
Where: along shores; in still, shallow water; or other moist areas; sunny or shaded
When: spring, summer, fall
Nutritional Value: antioxidants
Dangers: Thoroughly wash or cook this plant to kill any dangerous aquatic microbes

Medicinal Summary:
Leaves - capsicum antifungal; increases blood circulation, soothes muscle and nerve pain (tincture, infused vinegar, liniment, salve)

Leaf Arrangement: Alternate; leaves arranged one at a time along the stem with no opposite pair.

Leaf Shape: Elliptic to lanceolate; elongated with pointed tips and rounded bases, typically 1-4 inches long and 1/2-1 inch wide.

Leaf Venation: Pinnate; veins branching off a central midvein, resembling a bird's wing feathers.

Leaf Margin: Entire; smooth and unbroken edges.

Leaf Color: Bright green, sometimes with a reddish tinge on the undersides or along the veins.

Flower Structure: Tiny flowers clustered in very noticeable, dense spikes at stem and branch tips. Each flower has four petals and six stamens, but each flower is only about 1/16" across.

Flower Color: Flowers, when present, are white.

Fruit: A small, dry achene enclosed within the persistent tepals. Achenes are roughly triangular and about 1/16 inch wide.

Seed: Single seed per achene, small and brown.

Stem: Erect and slender, typically growing 6-24 inches tall. Stems are hollow and often reddish or tinged with purple.

Hairs: Sparse to absent; fine hairs may be present on young stems and leaves, but generally smooth to the touch.

Height: 6-24 inches.

Smartweed thickets


The leaves of smartweeds alternate and the base of the leaves wrap around the stem.

Another type of smartweed with white flowers.

Close-up of smartweed flower stalk.

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are SmartweedTX

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

Found in thick clusters along river, stream, ponds and other moist areas, Smart weeds are a common sight throughout spring, summer, and fall. There unique flower stalks with tiny white flowers make them easy to spot even from a distance. They are related to Lady's Thumb (Polygonum persicaria) which is found in similar setting but has pink flowers.

Smartweeds are have a very hot peppery flavor and it only takes a few to spice up a dish. However, the flavor isn't released immediately but shows up after a little chewing. The flavor doesn't withstand cooking very well and is better used as a seasoning added just before eating.

Buy my book! Outdoor Adventure Guides Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.

Privacy & Amazon Paid Promotion Statement

I use third-party advertising companies to serve ads when you visit this website. These companies may use information (not including your name, address, email address, or telephone number) about your visits to this and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used by these companies, click here.

I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. The prices you pay for the item isn't affected, my sales commission comes out of Amazon's pocket.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.