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Persicaria maculosa

Persicaria maculosa

Persicaria maculosa

Persicaria maculosa. Synonym: Polygonum persicaria.  (Spotted Lady's Thumb)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Foothills. Irrigation ditches, marshes and moist, disturbed areas. Summer.
Near Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, August 24, 2014.

As the map at the bottom of this page indicates, Lady's Thumb is an invasive species widely distributed through the United States. You will find it in moist areas in backyards, along irrigation ditches, and along the shores of ponds and rivulets. It often grows in broad patches as the top two photographs indicate.

Persicaria maculosa enjoys the same habitat as Persicaria lapathifolia.

In 1753 Linnaeus named this plant Polygonum persicaria.  In 1821 Asa Gray renamed the plant Persicaria maculosa, but some botanists (Stanley Welsh of A Utah Flora, for example) still use the Polygonum genus name.

"Persica" is Latin for "Peach"; "aria" means "pertaining to". The name refers to the similarity of the leaves of the two plants. "Maculosa" is Latin for "spotted" and refers to the dark spot on most leaves. See below.

Persicaria maculosa

Persicaria maculosa

Persicaria maculosa. Synonym: Polygonum persicaria.  (Spotted Lady's Thumb)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Foothills. Irrigation ditches, marshes and moist, disturbed areas. Summer.
Near Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, August 24, 2014.

Pink to white flowers are borne in tight clusters, often 1-2" long. In contrast to P. lapathifolia, the tepals are not (or rarely) gland dotted, generally there are 5 not 4 tepals, and the flower cluster usually does arch over dramatically as does the cluster of P. lapathifolia.

Persicaria maculosa

Persicaria maculosa

Persicaria maculosa. Synonym: Polygonum persicaria.  (Spotted Lady's Thumb)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Foothills. Irrigation ditches, marshes and moist, disturbed areas. Summer.
Near Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, August 24, 2014.

The fine hairs on the ocreae, the sheath formed by the united stipules, are a key distinguishing characteristic of this species. However, as the second photograph illustrates, that sheath disintegrates and its hairs are then very difficult to find.

Persicaria maculosa

Persicaria maculosa. Synonym: Polygonum persicaria.  (Spotted Lady's Thumb)
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Foothills. Irrigation ditches, marshes and moist, disturbed areas. Summer.
Near Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, August 24, 2014.

The dark spot found on most leaves apparently gave the plant the name, "Lady's Thumb", for someone thought the spot looked like a thumb print. That name is, however, just one of its many common names: Redshank, Heart's Ease, Redleg, etc.

Click to read that some people considered the leaves and other parts of the plant to be delightful edibles.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Persicaria maculosa

Range map for Persicaria maculosa