Common Bistort - Bistorta officinalis

Alternative names
Bistort and as Snake-root

An erect, perennial with attractive pink flowers, in a tight cylindrical inflorescence. The basal leaves have a long petiole, while the stem leaves are sessile. The upper part of the petiole has a narrow wing of leaf tissue. The plant grows from a stout creeping rhizome, which spreads to create dense patches.

Similar Species

Persicaria amphibia growing on dry land

Identification difficulty
ID guidance

Unbranched flowerheads, one per stem; stamens exserted (sticking out from flowers).  Leaves truncate/cordate at base, wider than P amphibia, lower ones with winged petioles

Recording advice

Photos of flowerhead, leaves and general growth form.


Often in damp areas and near to lakes margins, also in meadows and woods.  A more vigorous variety (var. superba) is often grown in gardens and may survive near houses, after being thrown out

When to see it

May to July.

Life History


UK Status

Found throughout Britain, but commonest in the north west of England.

VC55 Status

Not common in Leicestershire + Rutland. In the 1979 Flora survey of Leicestershire it was found in 9 of the 617 tetrads.

In the current Checklist (Jeeves, 2011) it is listed as Scarce.  It may have been introduced in some locations.

It is on the VC55 Rare Plant Register 

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Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map