Knotweed, Prostrate, Polygonum aviculare

Life Cycle



Reproducing only by seed.


Stems prostrate or semi-erect from a thin, tough, wiry, deeply penetrating taproot; stems slender, tough and wiry; growth habit variable: in open sunny situations stems fully prostrate, to 1m or longer, or main stems prostrate with short, upturned branches, but in partly shaded situations, such as a grain crop, stems are nearly erect to 30 or 40cm high; stem nodes (joints) distinct, thickened, and surrounded by a thin, papery ocrea (membranous sheath) that usually has a torn or jagged margin.


Leaves alternate (1 per node), up to 5cm long but usually much shorter, their width about 1/3-1/5 of their length, usually broadest near or past the middle, and narrower towards both ends.

Flowers and Fruit

Flowers small and inconspicuous, 2mm or less long, without petals but with 5 tiny greenish, pinkish or purplish sepals, produced in axils of leaves and partially enclosed in the ocrea; mature "seed" more or less enclosed by the drying sepals, slightly rough, dull brown, triangular in cross-section and about 2mm long. Flowers from June to September.


Prostrate knotweed occurs throughout Ontario in areas of moderately heavy foot- or wheel-traffic where the soils may be low in fertility and so heavily compacted that other plants are unable to survive. It is one of the most common weeds along roadsides, edges of or cracks in sidewalks and pavement, and heavy-traffic areas in lawns. It also occurs in gardens and cultivated fields where it tends to have a more erect habit of growth.

Distinguishing Features

It is distinguished by its thin, wiry stems with small leaves, the ragged ocrea surrounding the stem above every leaf, and its tiny greenish to pinkish or purplish flowers in axils of leaves. Prostrate knotweed, an introduction from Eurasia, is similar to several, closely related, native species of knotweed. One of the more common of these is Striate knotweed, Polygonum achoreum Blake,[POLAH, renouée coriace, Erect knotweed] This plant sometimes occurs in similar situations, especially roadsides, and is distinguished from Prostrate knotweed by its coarser, more erect stems, broader and more rounded leaves, and by its triangular seeds being smooth and olive-coloured. All knotweeds have wiry stems with swollen nodes, membranous ocrea, and tiny flowers arising inside the ocrea in leaf axils.

Figure #1.

Figure #2.

Seedling plant.

Figure #3.

Ocrea of prostrate knotweed.

Figure #4.

Alternate leaf orientation.

Figure #5.

Whole plant.

Figure #6.

Flower of prostrate knotweed.