Polygonum bistortoides Pursh
Collected on the Jim Ford Creek of the Clearwater River on the Weippe Prairie in Clearwater Co., Idaho, on 12 Jun 1806. (Source)
The American Bistort is an selender, swaying, perennial herb with thick rootstocks. It is 4-10 inches tall, with narrow 1/4 inch thick, white flower spikes producing dull brownish achenes near the tip and vegetative bulblets near the base. From a distance the flower looks like a tuft of cotton. It has narrow tapering leaves with the basal ones long-stemmed, and the upper ones stalk less and smaller. The American bistort is found in high mountain meadows throughout the West. The plants usually bloom in late July and well into August. (Source)
Both the roots and the young leaves of the bistort are edible and were used as food by Indians. The roots were eaten raw or cooked. The roots are boiled in stews, or steeped in water, and then roasted or dried and ground into flour for bread. The rootstocks have a taste similar to almonds or water chestnuts, but can sometimes be quite bitter. The leaves and shoots have a pleasing tart taste. They are eaten raw or cooked as a potherb, but mature stems are usually tough. The nutlets have a nutty flavor and can be eaten raw.
The dried, powdered roots or alcohol or water extracts from the roots are very astringent. They can be used as washes, gargles, douches and enemas to stop bleeding, reduce inflammation and combat infection. The preparation has also been used to treat cuts, abrasions, infected gums and mouth sores, measles, insect stings and snake bites. It is also rich in Vitamin C.
Value for Wildlife:
The roots are eaten by black and grizzly bears, and by rodents. The foliage is eaten by deer and elk.
Succeeds in an ordinary garden soil but prefers a moisture retentive not too fertile soil in sun or part shade. Division in spring or autumn. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions.
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