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Red Bistorta Bistorta amplexicaulis 'Firetail'

Previously known as:

  • Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’
  • Polygonum amplexicaule
  • Polygonum speciosum
Phonetic Spelling
bis-TOR-ta am-pleks-ih-KAWL-is
Description

Bistorta amplexicaulis, or Mountain Fleece, is a large, clumping and spreading, herbaceous flowering perennial that enjoys the sun and moist soil. Firetail is a specific cultivar of Bistorta amplexicaulis. Widely used in European gardens, its red, long-blooming flowers bloom all summer on tall spikes, making it a nice addition to the cutting garden and flower arrangements. It is a member of the Buckwheat family, with its name coming from the Latin word “Bistort”, meaning twice twisted, referring to its S-shaped root, and “Amplexicaulis", meaning clasping or embracing the stem, referring to the leaves that grow around the stem.

Mountain Fleece needs consistently damp, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade, although it enjoys a bit of shade in the hot summer. It will tolerate wet soil. The plant is a moderate grower, reaching a mature size of 3-4 feet tall and wide in 2-5 years. In optimum growing conditions, plants of this species will slowly spread in the garden making it a good ground cover. Self-seeding may occur. Although not invasive, this plant is best sited in locations where it has room to spread. Propagate Mountain Fleece in the spring or fall by dividing the rhizomes. Occasionally it will self-seed, but most often the seedling will not resemble the parent plant. Cut back flowers after blooming to keep tidy. Mulch with a few inches of bark, pine needles, chopped leaves to keep the soil moist, and protect from harsh winters.

Diseases, Insects, and Other Plant Problems:

Mountain Fleece does not have any serious insect or disease problems, but may be visited by aphids, Japanese beetles, slugs, and snails. Protect from strong winds.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Sun and Shade Demo Garden, Buncombe County
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Alba'
    White flowers.
  • 'Blackfield'
    Blood Red flowers.
  • 'Golden Arrow'
    Compact with golden foliage and red flowers.
  • 'High Society'
  • 'Inverleith'
    Dwarf 20 inches tall.
  • 'Pink Elephant'
    Pink flowers.
'Alba', 'Blackfield', 'Golden Arrow', 'High Society', 'Inverleith', 'Pink Elephant'
Tags:
#perennial#flower arrangements#herbaceous perennial#groundcover#flowering#buncombe sun and shade
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Alba'
    White flowers.
  • 'Blackfield'
    Blood Red flowers.
  • 'Golden Arrow'
    Compact with golden foliage and red flowers.
  • 'High Society'
  • 'Inverleith'
    Dwarf 20 inches tall.
  • 'Pink Elephant'
    Pink flowers.
'Alba', 'Blackfield', 'Golden Arrow', 'High Society', 'Inverleith', 'Pink Elephant'
Tags:
#perennial#flower arrangements#herbaceous perennial#groundcover#flowering#buncombe sun and shade
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Bistorta
    Species:
    amplexicaulis
    Family:
    Polygonaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The entire plant of Mountain Fleece has been used to make medicinal products. It has been used to treat diarrhea, cough, nose bleeds, wound healing, ulcers, gout, backache, hemorrhoids, and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses. The root of Mountain Fleece is one of the strongest vegetable astringents among native vegetables. The plant is also used to make tea, for the treatment of flu, fever, and joint problems. The root has been used for tanning leather.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Easterm Afghanistan and Central China, West Himalayas, Pakistan
    Distribution:
    Brussels, Beernem, Schepdaal, Neder-over-Heembeek
    Wildlife Value:
    Provides nectar for pollinators.
    Edibility:
    The rhizome is blackish-brown or purplish on the outside and reddish-brown on the inside. It contains about 20% tannin, and also contains gallic acids, gum, and is high in starch. In Pakistan, leaves are used as a vegetable. In Northern England, the leaves of the plant are used in combination with oatmeal, eggs, and herbs to make a bitter pudding during Lent. The roots contain large amounts of starch and are roasted and are eaten similar to potatoes in Russia and northern Asia. Bread can be made from flour made from the roots.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Perennial
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Mounding
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Wet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4b, 4a, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is three-seeded, and shiny. Birds feed on the seed.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Spike
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Bell
    Flower Petals:
    Tepals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The fluffy rose-red to white, dense, bottlebrush shaped flower spikes are approximately .2 of an inch wide and ½ to 4 inches long. Blooms last all summer, sometimes until the first frost. Spikes may be solitary or branched.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Smooth
    Leaf Type:
    Sheath
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Lanceolate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Denticulate
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The bluish-green leathery leaves are slightly puckered, and tapered to a sharp point, cordate shaped at the base, with an ash-grey downy underside. The leaves have a prominent midrib, and have a jointed appearance at each leaf node, as each leaf clasps the stems with the leaf stipules sheathing the stem.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Fleshy stems are 13 to 27 inches long, simple or branched, erect, and having few leaves.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Meadow
    Naturalized Area
    Riparian
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Cutting Garden
    English Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Diseases
    Humidity
    Rabbits
    Wet Soil