climbing false buckwheat (Fallopia scandens)
climbing fasle buckwheat
Polygonum scandens Linnaeus
Bilderdykia cristata (Engelmann & A. Gray) Greene
Bilderdykia scandens (Linnaeus) Greene
Bilderdykia scandens var. cristata (Engelmann & A. Gray) C. F.
Fallopia cristata (Engelmann & A. Gray) Holub
Pilderdykia cristatum Engelmann & A. Gray
Pilderdykia dumetorum var. scandens (Linnaeus) A. Gray
Pilderdykia scandens var. cristatum (Engelmann & A. Gray) Glea-
Reynoutria scandens (Linnaeus) Shinners
Reynoutria scandens var. cristata (Engelmann & A. Gray) Shinners
Tiniaria cristata (Engelmann & A. Gray) Small
Tiniaria scandens (Linnaeus) Small
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for climbing
false buckwheat is Fallopia scandens (Linnaeus) Holub. There is a
lack of consensus regarding the taxonomy of this variable species.
Many references to climbing false buckwheat still refer to it as Poly-
gonum scandens L., including the PLANTS Database. The Database
lists three varieties of Polygonum scandens: 1) variety cristatum
(Engelm. & A. Gray) Gleason, 2) dumetorum (L.) Gleason, and 3)
scandens. The Atlas of Virginia Flora lists Fallopia scandens with-
out variety. The typical variety scandens is described below.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: Climbing false buckwheat is a native perennial herb. It is a sprawl-
ing twining vine (no tendrils) up to 20' long that can climb adjacent vege-
tation and fences. Twines with the apex of its stem in a sinistral fashion
(from right to left). The slender branched stems are light green to bright
red (becoming reddish in pro- longed sunlight) and round, angular, or
slightly to sharply ridged. They are largely hairless, except for minute
stiff hairs along the ridges.
Leaves: At the base of the slightly scabrous petioles (up to 1½" long).
The slender petioles similar in appearance to the stems. The stems are
slightly swollen and have an inconspicuous short pale green to brown-
ish green ocreae (membranous sheaths up to 2mm long) that are without
bristles. The lower leaves have long petioles, while the smaller upper
leaves are nearly sessile. The alternate leaves are up to 4" long (occas-
sionally longer) and 2" across (excluding the petioles) and often with
have scabrous midveins.They are cordate or ovate at the base, smooth
along the margins, hairless, indented at the base and have acuminate tips.
Flowers: From the axils of the leaves, there develops one or more racemes
of flowers about 2-8" long. These racemes are usually more or less erect
(although sometimes horizontal) and their central stalks are often terete
with numerous fine ridges. The yellow-green to greenish white flowers
occur in loose whorls along these racemes. They are initially semi-erect
while in bloom, but dangle downward from their slender pedicels while
developing their fruits. Each flower is about 1/6" long, consisting of 5
greenish white tepals, 8 stamens, and an ovary with a tripartite style. The
3 outer tepals are conspicuously winged. The wings of these tepals can be
smooth, undulate, or slightly jagged.
Fruit/Seeds: Each flower is replaced by a winged fruit about 1/3" long
that consists of the 3 outer tepals enclosing a single achene. This fruit is
initially greenish white like the flower, but it eventually becomes brown.
The 3-angled achenes are about 1/8" in length (or slightly longer). They
are triangular, smooth, dark brown or black and shiny. After maturity,
the three outer sepals expand, becoming papery and giving the fruit its characteristic wing. The mature fruits can float on water or be blown
about by the wind, thereby distributing the achenes. Because the achene
does not open, seeds are not found.
Roots: The roots are thick and fibrous.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Climbing false buckwheat propogates
itself by reseeding; it often forms sizable colonies under favorable con-
ditions. The species is bird-dispersed; the papery calyx wings probably
aid in wind dispersal.
HABITAT TYPES: Habitats include open woodlands in floodplain areas,
woodland borders, thickets, riverbanks, ditches, sloughs, sloping ground
along bridges, and fence rows. This species is often found in moist areas
along the edges of woodlands or near sources of water including ponds,
lakes and along rivers and streams. It can also survive in drier habitats.
It is thrives on disturbance and is rather weedy; however, due to its per-
ennial habit is does not tolerate regular mowing and cultivation of the
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Climbing false buckwheat prefers partial
sun, moist to mesic conditions, and a fertile loamy soil, although full sun,
drier conditions, and rocky or gravelly soil are also tolerated. Climbing
false buckehat is an aggressive vine that develops rapidly during the sum-
mer and can smother small forbs and herbs.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from mid-
summer to early fall (July to October) and lasts about 1-2 months.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Climbing false buckwheat (all three var-
ieties) is found throughout all of the eastern United States and Canada (ex-
cept Newfoundland) and extendes westward through the Ohio Valley,
Gulf Coast states, Great Plains states and provinces, into the eastern
Rocky Mountain region (Colorado and Wyoming). It is not naturally
found in the far southwest, Pacific west or northwestern states and Cana-
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The nectar of the flowers primarily attracts
short-tongued bees, wasps, and flies. Some of the bees may be collect pol-
len. Less common visitors include butterflies, skippers, and beetles. The
caterpillars of the moth Calothysanis amaturaria (cross-lined wave) feed
on the foliage of Fallopia spp. (Climbing Buckwheats). It seems likely
that many of the insects that feed on Persicaria spp. (Smartweeds) and
Polygonum spp. (Knotweeds) also feed on Climbing Buckwheats. The
large seeds are an important source of food to many birds, especially up-
land gamebirds. The white-footed mouse and other small mammals also
eat the seeds. The foliage isn't usually eaten by mammalian herbivores,
although cattle and other livestock may browse on it. The dense foliage
provides cover for small mammals and nesting birds.
Crooked Run Valley