Smartweed - Polygonum
Smartweed is a fast-growing annual which reaches up to four feet in height. It has dark green, oblong leaves, and flowers in clusters of small pink and white blossoms. It is an appealing garden addition for many reasons, including its low maintenance requirements and versatile medicinal and culinary applications. Smartweed blooms from mid-July to the first frost. It thrives in all zones. Its affinity for moist and inundated soil makes it helpful in camouflaging boggy areas, as well as managing erosion. Some species can grow submerged in water, making them an excellent choice for edging ponds and water features.
Smartweed has a long history of medicinal use and is still a favorite homeopathic remedy today. The indigenous people of South America used it to combat bacterial infection. In Europe, smartweed poultices were applied to soothe inflamed muscles and to ease cough and cold symptoms. The plant was also believed to have a repellant effect on insect pests. For this reason, it was recommended that farmers scatter smartweed in barns to drive away flies.
Another name for smartweed is "water pepper," referring to its spicy flavor. The leaves and stems can be used like cayenne pepper to flavor soups, poultry, and other dishes. The plant can be ground up like a seasoning, or chopped and sprinkled over dishes as a garnish. The roots can also be soaked and cooked. Smartweed's rapid growth and robust nature permit abundant harvesting without too much depletion of the stock.
In the wild, smartweed is an essential source of food for waterfowl. It also attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies, which are essential to the health of any ecosystem - and make a visually pleasing addition to a garden. Overall, smartweed offers impressive rewards for minimal startup and maintenance effort.
USDA Climate Zone: 4-8
Height: 4 in. To 8 in.
Width: 1 ft. 8 in.
Sunlight: Full Sun, Partial Sun, Shade.