Persicaria sagittata (Arrow-leaved Tearthumb)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Polygonaceae (Buckwheat)
Life cycle:annual
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist to wet; marshes, wet meadows, fens, stream banks
Bloom season:
Plant height:18 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] Tight, rounded, short clusters about 1/3 inch across, at tip of the stem and arising from upper leaf axils, often with 2 or 3 clusters each on a stalk less than 1 inch long, branching at the end of a stem up to 3 inches long. Flowers are white or greenish to pink, about 1/8 inch long with 5 oval elliptic tepals (petals and similar sepals), only 1 to a few open at a time. Stalks are 4-angled with rows of stiff, claw-like, downward curving bristles along each angle.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate and widely spaced, lance-like or lance-oblong, 1 to 4 inches long to 1 inch wide, with a slightly rounded taper to the tip and deeply lobed at the base, the lobes pointed and directed downward. Lower leaves have stalks up to 1½ inches long, the upper leaves nearly stalkless, the basal lobes often wrapping around the stem.

[photo of stem and bristles] Leaves and stems are nearly smooth throughout except for short fine hairs along leaf edges and sharp, claw-like bristles on stem angles and the midvein on the underside of leaves. Stems are green to red, 4-angled, weak, erect when young, branching from the base, mostly unbranched in the upper plant, sprawling or vining on surrounding vegetation, often rooting at nodes on the lower plant and creating very dense colonies.


Arrow-leaved Tearthumb is relatively common throughout the eastern half of Minnesota. It is quickly identifiable by its sharp, claw-like bristles on stems and leaves that cause it to cling to clothing and even tear tender skin - it has drawn my own blood more than once! In this regard it is similar only to Halberd-leaved Tearthumb (Persicaria arifolia) but the latter can be distinguished by its broader leaves with pointed basal lobes perpendicular to the central blade and its sparse, slender flower cluster.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds
  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Spangle Creek Labs - Native orchids, lab propagated

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Sucker Lake, Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: John - Southeast marshy shore of Green Lake, Chisago City
on: 2014-09-04 18:47:38

First encounter with this whipsaw monster in our cattail marsh. Looks like we have a growing population here and it seems to prefer clinging to the buckthorn saplings submerged in this year's higher water levels. Thanks for your good work helping all of us ID our discoveries!

Posted by: Andrea - Ramsey, MN
on: 2018-08-12 15:28:06

Taking over our small wetland area.

Posted by: natalie - Tomah, WI
on: 2020-06-14 00:28:12

I've got it growing in my ditch along the highway with the crown vetch. How do I eradicate it?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-06-14 10:40:49

Natalie, I'd be more concerned with the crown vetch. Eradicate that. Google is your friend.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.