Page author: David Giblin
Bistorta vivipara
alpine bistort, serpent-grass

Distribution: Occurring on both sides of the Cascades in northern Washington; Alaska south to Oregon, east to Montana, and south in the Rockies to New Mexico; across Canada to Newfoundland, south to Minnesota and Maine.

Habitat: Damp areas, shady woods, meadows and streambanks at mid- to high elevations in the mountains.

Flowers: June-September

Origin: Native

Growth Duration: Perennial

Conservation Status: Not of concern


Perennial from a short rootstock, 1-several flowering stems 1-3 dm. tall.


Chiefly basal, long-petiolate, the blade narrowly oblong to oblong-lanceolate; stipules strongly sheathing, brown, 2-5 mm. long, oblique at the tip, not lacerate; stem leaves 2-4, much narrower than the basal leaves, reduced upward and becoming sessile.


Inflorescence a single, spike-like raceme 4-8 cm. long and 1 cm. broad, the lower flowers replaced by small pinkish to purplish bulblets, all flowers subtended by small bracts; normal flowers usually functionally imperfect on pedicles 2-4 mm. long, the white perianth 3-3.5 mm. long; stamens 8 when developed, the filaments as long to twice as long as the perianth; in the pistillate flowers the stamens rudimentary.


Achene with three sharp angles, dark brown, smooth, 2-3 mm. long, but usually not developing.

Identification Notes:

Separate from the similar P. bistortoides by the narrower inflorescence with bulblets replacing flowers on the lower portion.

Accepted Name:
Bistorta vivipara (L.) Delarbre
Publication: Fl. Auvergne, ed. 2. 2: 516. 1800. 1800.

Synonyms & Misapplications:
Bistorta vivipara (L.) Delarbre ssp. macounii (Small ex J.M. Macoun) Soják
Persicaria vivipara (L.) Ronse Decr.
Polygonum viviparum L. [HC, ILBC4]
Polygonum viviparum L. var. macounii (Small ex J.M. Macoun) Hultén
Additional Resources:

PNW Herbaria: Specimen records of Bistorta vivipara in the Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria database.

WA Flora Checklist: Bistorta vivipara checklist entry.

OregonFlora: Bistorta vivipara information.

E-Flora BC: Bistorta vivipara atlas page.

CalPhotos: Bistorta vivipara photos.

USDA Plants: Bistorta vivipara information.

9 photographs:
Group by