Today’s entry was put together by Katherine. She writes:
Bistorta bistortoides is commonly known as American bistort, western bistort, smokeweed, mountain meadow knotweed or dirty socks (a reference to the “fragrance” of the flowers). Scientifically, it is also known by these synonyms: Polygonum bistortoides and Persicaria bistortoides.
Bistorta bistortoides is native to western North America and is distributed from British Columbia, south to California, and eastwards into Alberta and the central United States (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico). The Jepson eFlora lists Bistorta bistortoides as being present in “wet meadows, streambanks and alpine slopes”.
Bistorta bistortoides blooms relatively soon after snowmelt and fruits later in the summer. Although no uses are listed by the USDA, the Flora of North America (linked above) provides some traditional native uses: the “roots of western bistort were used in soups and stews by the Blackfoot, [and] boiled with meat by the Cherokee, and used in a poultice that was applied to sores and boils by the Miwok (D. E. Moerman 1998)”. Wikipedia also notes that Bistorta bistortoides is “edible either raw or fire-roasted with a flavor resembling chestnuts. The seeds can be dried and ground into flour and used to make bread. They were also roasted and eaten as a cracked grain”.