Persicaria careyi (Carey's Smartweed)

Plant Info
Also known as: Carey's Heart's-ease
Family:Polygonaceae (Buckwheat)
Life cycle:annual
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist soil; swamps, bogs, shorelines, thickets, roadsides, fields
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:1 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: none MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Densely packed spikes, usually drooping or nodding, 1 to 4 inches long at the tips of branches at the top of the plant and from the upper leaf axils. Flowers are about 1/8 inch long, rose pink to purplish with 5 petals but most appear bud-like and barely open. Hidden inside the flower are 5 pink-tipped stamens and 2 styles.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate, 2½ to 7 inches long and 1/3 to 1 1/3 inches wide, toothless with a fringe of short hairs around the edges, narrowly lance shaped, tapering to a pointed tip, tapering at the base, short-stalked or stalkless. The upper surface is sparsely hairy and lacks the dark spot common on related species. The lower leaf surface is sparsely hairy but usually more densely hairy on the veins, sometimes with glandular hairs.

[photo of ocrea] At the base of the leaf is a brown to reddish, membranous sheath (ocrea) that surrounds the stem, has pale ribbing, bristly hairs up to ¼ inch long around the edge, and spreading hairs on the surface.

[photo of upper stem hairs] Stems are erect, glandular hairy in the upper plant and into the flowering branches, smooth to spreading hairy (but not usually glandular) in the lower plant. Plants rarely root at the nodes in the lower plant and have no stolons or rhizomes.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a dry seed, shiny, smooth, flattened oval, dark brown to black.


Carey's Smartweed can be distinguished from all other Persicaria species in Minnesota by the glandular hairs in the upper plant combined with long, spreading white hairs on the leaf veins and ocrea. According to the DNR, this species was only recorded once in the state, in Carlton county in 1940, not seen since, and was consequently designated a Special Concern species. It is curious that it has that status rather than the “Historical” status given to a number of other species with few records but not seen in at least 50 years. If it is still present in the state, we would be at the western fringe of its range. It is not so rare in Wisconsin based on the number of collections in the Freckmann Herbarium so it may yet be rediscovered in Minnesota's eastern border counties.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Lorry Erickson taken in Warrens, Wisconsin.


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

Posted by: Colleen - Anoka
on: 2014-08-26 12:46:42

I have this growing in my flower bed and along the road

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-08-26 19:14:56

Colleen, it is far more likely you have one of the other common Persicaria species in your garden. Several are weedy. P. careyi would have glandular hairs. Other species may have hairs, but they wouldn't have little glands on the hair tips.

Posted by: luciearl - Fairview Township, MN
on: 2015-10-04 18:38:19

This looks like the flower I found growing along side a dirt road. I did not want to bring it home if it was invasive (although I did not see many). I planted it in my yard in similar conditions and it adjusted quickly. Pretty light pink.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-10-04 21:49:32

Luciearl, like Colleen, it is far more likely you have one of the other common Persicaria species in your garden. Several are weedy. P. careyi would have glandular hairs. Other species may have hairs, but they wouldn't have little glands on the hair tips.

Posted by: Rachel - Isanti, MN
on: 2016-09-09 10:40:28

This is growing under our deck in the back yard.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-09-09 14:07:28

Rachel, it is far more likely you have one of the common, weedier Persicaria species in your yard. P. careyi is quite rare. Read the Notes above describing how to distinguish it from other species.

Posted by: Matt - Minneapolis
on: 2020-08-14 23:28:26

I’ve seen these all over Minneapolis. Early August lining Minnehaha creek and in my driveway in Powderhorn neighborhood. Surprised to learned they are endangered because I see them all over.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-08-16 07:50:08

Matt, there are several similar Persicaria species, a few of which do indeed pop up in driveways and other places where weeds tend to congregate. You saw one of those, not P. careyi. See the Notes above to learn how to distinguish them.

Posted by: Carol Pulkinen - Virginia
on: 2020-08-28 17:29:47

I have two of these plants in my backyard, courtesy of passing birds since I have never planted them. They are lovely with long pink hanging flowers.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-08-29 06:28:14

Carol, as noted on every other comment, it is highly unlikely you have Carey's smartweed in your yard. There are several weedy Persicaria species and if you don't want a whole yard of it I recommend pulling it up now.

Posted by: Cindi Brownlee - Hibbing
on: 2021-07-17 10:13:05

Carey lake recreational ski area..... I picked a handful of them. The city had recently logged off a large area, and the old tar parking lot is now a turn around. These plants are scattered around the area

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-07-17 21:11:13

Cindi, like the other commenters above, you more than likely have a different species of Persicaria, not P. careyi. If you'd like confirmation on an ID, post some images on the Minnesota Wildflowers Facebook page.

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