E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Bistorta vivipara (L.) Gray
alpine bistort
Polygonaceae (Buckwheat family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Bryan Kelly-McArthur  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #74550)

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Distribution of Bistorta vivipara
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Species Information

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Perennial herb from a short, thick, often contorted rhizome; stems erect, solitary, simple, 10-30 cm tall.
Basal leaves alternate, lanceolate to oblong or egg-shaped, the blades 3-10 cm long, the stalks longer than the blades; stem leaves 2-4, nearly linear, reduced and becoming unstalked upwards; stipules brown, strongly sheathing, 1-5 cm long, entire.
Inflorescence a single, terminal, spikelike raceme, 2-10 cm long, mostly 1-1.5 mm wide, the lower flowers replaced by small pinkish to purple bulblets; perianths 3-3.5 mm long, white or pink, 5-lobed 2/3 or more the distance to the base.
Achenes, 3-angled, dark brown, smooth to somewhat granular, 2-3 mm long, usually not developing.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Moist forest openings, meadows, streambanks and rocky slopes and ridges in the upper montane to alpine zones; frequent in and east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains in BC, rare along the coast; circumpolar, N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF and S to NH, MN, MI, UT, NM and OR; Eurasia, Iceland.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Bistorta vivipara

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 14 1741 2675
Slope Gradient (%) 0 18 300
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 245 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 3 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(73), BAFA(389), BWBS(9), ESSF(183), ICH(2), IDF(2), IMA(27), MH(2), MS(11), SBPS(3), SBS(3), SWB(98)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Persicaria vivipara (L.) Ronse Decr.
Polygonum fugax Small
Polygonum macounii Small ex Macoun
Polygonum viviparum L.
Polygonum viviparum var. alpinum Wahlenb.
Polygonum viviparum var. macounii (Small ex Macoun) Hultén

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References