Lady’s Thumb

June 23, 2010 at 1:43 am Leave a comment

This post is late because I’m busy moving to a new city. Fortunately, today’s plant can be found in almost any American city, eking out a living in the tiniest cracks between pavement slabs.

Lady’s Thumb (Persicaria maculosa) is a member of the Buckwheat family, and it counts rhubarb and buckwheat among its more illustrious relatives.

This plant is native to Europe. I don’t know if it was brought to North America because it was edible (though your mileage may vary) or because of its purported medicinal qualities, or if its tiny black seeds hitched a ride in a shipment of grain. Regardless, it found the New World to be very inviting.

This tough little plant now thrives deep in the concrete jungle. I remember coming across one of them when I was five years old and living in Philadelphia; it was protruding improbably from a little rift in the pavement outside my home. I puzzled over the clump of bubblegum-pink beads that were, it turns out, its flowers.

The name Lady’s Thumb comes from a spot on the leaves that supposedly looks as if a lady pressed her (very dirty?) thumb against it. This spot helps distinguish Lady’s Thumb from some of its relatives that are native to North America.

I’ve been focusing on non-native plants on this blog so far; the truth is that the world of urban botany has as much to say about the travels of humans as it does about plants. Still, I promise to feature a native plant on Friday. There are native plants in the city, jostling leaf-to-leaf with Lady’s Thumb and all the rest.


Entry filed under: Herbaceous plants.

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