watersmartweed001y.jpg (4441 bytes) Water Smartweed
Polygonum amphibium

Not a weed in Oregon, but plentiful.

September 18, 2004. This year I'm into some serious papermaking. I've been studying the flowers of the Klamath Basin for two years - taking photographs and learning which flowers are noxious weeds or invasive plants. This plant is NOT on the Noxious Weeds list for Oregon.  To view my page of pictures documenting this plant, go to my Scientific Index and look up Polygonum amphibium. Please do not bookmark the page where the pictures are as I move my photos and pages around regularly. My index will always be the same, though.

97canal001e.jpg (5546 bytes)It is the end of the season and dicey getting to the plants between when they brown off and before the rains come making access to them impossible. watersmartweed001zzzc.jpg (12294 bytes)watersmartweedvinest.jpg (11470 bytes)So I opted to just go ahead and harvest the plants green. The flowers have gone to seed and the seed are dispersed, so down I clambered into the overflow ditch for the canal along Highway 97 just north of Worden, Oregon. The leaves don't have any fiber to them, so I stripped them off the vine right there in the ditch before putting them into my bag. When picking them, the vines are jointed and break easily if just grabbed and tugged on. I pulled a vine gently up with one hand and then followed down close to the root with the other. When I got to an area where the vine started to turn black, I gripped it and gave a firm pull to separate it above that point. Since this is not a weed, I did not want to pull up any of the rhizomes or remove any of the actual roots. This plant spreads primarily by rooting at the joints and secondarily by seed. I would also pull only two or three vines from a spot and then move a few feet away and pull another two or three vines so I wouldn't disadvantage any plants. When I had enough to make a small amount of paper, I added them to my bag and, when I arrived back home, set them out in Studio O for chopping.

smartweedpott.jpg (9038 bytes)smartweedcookedt.jpg (6546 bytes)September 24, 2004. I hauled the bag inside and sat down in front of the television. The vines were crisp enough I could break them into smaller pieces with my fingernails, but there were enough I knew my hands would get sore by the end of it all. I pilfered my wife's kitchen scissors and made quick work of them, cutting them into half inch pieces directly into my enamel pot. I had harvested a very modest number of vines to experiment with, so they didn't take up much room and only needed one gallon of water to cover them up.

smartweedteaT.jpg (2866 bytes)smartweedcolort.jpg (4807 bytes)I added four teaspoons of washing soda (1tsp per quart) and placed the pot on the stove. I brought the water to a full boil and then turned it down to a gentle boil. Each hour for four hours I tested the fiber with the finger test. This is where I grip each end of a piece of the plant with my index finger and thumb and pull gently, but firmly across the grain to see if it breaks.  The pieces were as tough as when they first went into the water. I poured off the lovely red/brown tea, added a fresh gallon of water and added four teaspoons of Red DevilŪ Lye. Inside of 90 minutes, I had compliant fiber ready for pulping and the tea was a glorious, rich red/brown dye.

I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed ad nauseum for about fifteen minutes before the water finally ran clear. The fiber is quite firm and reminds me a little of the texture I got with Equisetum.

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Copyright 1998-2004 Colleen D. Bergeron.
Last revised: November 25, 2005.