Ontario Weeds: Prostrate knotweed

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Excerpt from Publication 505, Ontario Weeds, Order this publication

Table of Contents

  1. Name
  2. Other Names
  3. Family
  4. General Description
  5. Stems and Roots
  6. Leaves
  7. Flowers and Fruit
  8. Habitat
  9. Similar Species
  10. Related Links

Name: Prostrate knotweed, Polygonum aviculare L.,

Other Names: renouée des oiseaux, Doorweed, Knot-grass, Mat-grass, Road-spread, traînasse, renouée aviculaire

Family: Buckwheat or Smartweed Family (Polygonaceae)

General Description: Annual, reproducing only by seed.

Photos and Pictures

Prostrate knotweed.

Prostrate knotweed.

Prostrate knotweed (A - plant on a dry lawn; B - portion of stems showing ocrea).

Prostrate knotweed (A - plant on a dry lawn; B - portion of stems showing ocrea).


Prostrate knotweed. A. Plant. B. Branch tip with flowers in several leaf axils. C. 1 older leaf with 1 "seed" in its axil, the "seed" still enclosed in its sepals.

Prostrate knotweed. A. Plant. B. Branch tip with flowers in several leaf axils. C. 1 older leaf with 1 "seed" in its axil, the "seed" still enclosed in its sepals.

Stems & Roots: 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 (40in.) 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 (12-16in.) high; stem nodes (joints) distinct, thickened, and surrounded by a thin, papery ocrea (membranous sheath) that usually has a torn or jagged margin.

Leaves: Leaves alternate (1 per node), up to 5cm (2in.) 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 & Fruit: Flowers small and inconspicuous, 2mm (1/12in.) 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 (1/12in.) long. Flowers from June to September.

Habitat: 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.

Similar Species: 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.

Related Links

... on general Weed topics
... on weed identification, order OMAFRA Publication 505: Ontario Weeds
... on weed control, order OMAFRA Publication 75: Guide To Weed Control

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