A member of the Dock family, and a relation of Amphibious Bistort (Persicaria amphibia), Redshank is a fairly common sight in arable fields, waysides, marshland and waste ground around Scotland. Maculosa refers to dark blotches that appear on the leaves, usually one blotch per leaf. For this reason the plant is also known as Spotted Lady’s Thumb.
The stems are limply ascending, reddish, hairless and with a swollen appearance at the joints. Stems are covered in a membranous sheath which is topped with bristles. The sheath is most visible at the leaf nodes or stem joints where it loosens from the stem slightly.
Leaves are lanceolate and grow alternately up the stems. The leaf blades are glabrous and either short-stalked or sessile. Leaves grow between 5 and 10cm long and have smooth edges.
The flowerhead is a dense spike of tiny bell-shaped, pink flowers, each about 3mm long. The flower is made up of a perianth of 5 fused lobes which separate halfway along but remain close together. These lobes are reddish pink, sometimes softening to white at the tips. Inside each bell are 6 short stamens and a style.
Redshank leaves are edible, and rich in vitamins, but with a bland taste. An infusion of leaves and stems has been used in herbal medicine to treat diarrhoea.