A shrubby, herbaceous perennial with reddish, hollow, jointed stems that become woody and rigid with age and resemble bamboo. Sheathlike coverings and swollen nodes are found along the stem where the leaves join. Leaves are alternate, broadly heart-shaped with distinctly pointed tips, and 3-6 inches long. Blooms July through September. Flowers are white to greenish and produced in long spikes that arise where leaves join the stems or at the ends of the stems. Seeds are small, winged, and are formed by August and September.
Similar species: Missouri has 4 Fallopia species. This is the only one with stout, erect stems and is a perennial. The others have slender stems that climb and twine, and they are annuals or short-lived perennials.