Polygonum scandens L.
Climbing false buckwheat
Climbing buckwheat is a common, robust North American native. The genus Polygonum means ”many knees”—a reference to the jointed sheaths the are found wherever leaf stems meet the vine.
Plants: These vines twist and clamber rapidly over other plants, reaching lengths up to 20' (6.1 m). The green vines often turn deep red in the sun, and are hairless.
Leaves: Ovate (heart-shaped), almost sagittate (arrowhead-shaped), sharp-tipped, alternate, up to 2" (5 cm) × 4" (10 cm). Where each leaf stem attaches to the vine, the vine is somewhat swollen, forming a sort of protective sheath. Leaf stems are up to 1½" (3.8 cm) long.
Flowers: The flower clusters (racemes) are 2-8" (5-20 cm) long, composed of greenish, rather unflowerlike flowers bordered with three tepals that are the fruit. Flowers are ¼" (8.5 mm) around.
Fruits: Greenish and bordered with white or pink. about ¼" (8.5 mm) around.
Some similar species:
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|Plant||Vine up to 3' (1 m) long. At leaf nodes there is an ocrea.||Vines up to 20' (6.1 m) long. Stems are light green to bright red, almost hairless. Where leaves attach to the stem, there is a protective sheath, or ocrea||Stems are 12-197" (30-500 cm) long. It climbs by twining around other stems, from right to left. There are stiff bristles at each node (ocrea. Each ocrea is ¹/₁₆-⅛" (3-4 mm) long.|
|Flowers||Small, greenish-pink to greenish-white, in racemes (bunches); individual flowers are ⅛" (4 mm) long, racemes are up to 2½" (6.3 cm) long||Racemes are 2-8" (5-20 cm) long, with small greenish flowers.||Panicles are 1½-4" (4-10 cm) long, comprised of greenish-white or pink-fringed flowers. Each flower is 5-parted. Flowers appear from June to October.|
|Leaves||Alternate, triangular or heart-shaped, lower corners of leaves aim inward toward the petiole (leaf stem)||Ovate, approaching sagittate (shaped like an arrowhead), up to 2" (5 cm) × 4" (10 cm). Leaf petioles are up to 1½" (3.8 cm) long||Alternate, oval to triangular, with wavy margins, often with reddish veins standing out. Their stems (petioles) are ⅜-2" (1-6 cm) long.|
|Fruit||Three-sided, with a single dull black seed||Greenish, with white or pink borders.||⅛-³/₁₆" (4-6 mm) seeds are black and very shiny.|
Edibility: The seeds can be processed into flour.
Polygonum scandens on
Polygonum scandens at Illinois Wildflowers
Polygonum scandens on Southeastern Flora, the Southeastern U.S. Plant Identification Resource
Polygonum scandens at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Polygonum scandens on eFloras
Clemants, Steven; Gracie, Carol, Wildflowers in the Field and Forest, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 272
Polygonum scandens description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 6 Sep 2021.