Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Caryophyllales - Family: Polygonaceae
Buckwheat (of which there are several similar species) was introduced to western Europe from China and other parts of Asia several hundred years ago. It is also a relic of cultivation: while no longer considered as a useful crop plant in Britain, it is still grown commercially in some parts of eastern Europe and Asia.
The red-tinged upright branching stems of Buckwheat are only very slightly hairy, Its leaves are shaped like arrowheads, and the five-tepalled flowers grow in dense racemes at the tips of shoots. Pink and white, the individual flowers are typically 5mm across. This annual weed grows to typically 40 to 60cm in height.
In Britain this is mainly a southern species, common in the south of England and found less often in Wales, it is quite a rare sight in Scotland and in Ireland. The plants shown on this page were growing beside a track on the edge of the Conwy Estuary near Deganwy.
You will find this rather attractive weed in wasteland, rubbish tips, built-up tracks and field margins as well as in disturbed land - for example beside farm gateways.
In Britain and Ireland Buckwheat usually blooms from July through to the end of August, but in sheltered spots you may still see it in flower as late as mid September.
Formerly Buckwheat was used as a crop plant, and its seeds were ground to make a kind of gluten-free flour. Bees and hoverflies are attracted to the flowers of Buckwheat.
Fagopyrum, the generic name, comes from the Greek words Fagos, meaning beech, and pyrum meaning wheat. (The triangular seeds of Buckwheat resemble tiny beech nuts.) The specific epithet esculentum is Latin and translates to 'edible'.
Redshank Persicaria maculosa often grows in the same habitats as Buckwheat and its stems generally have a red flush, but the dark spots on its leaves readily distinguish it from Buckwheat.
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