This is one of the more common smartweeds in wetland areas. It also occurs in flood-prone areas of woodlands. Water Smartweed is average-sized and not particularly showy, but the seeds are valuable to wildlife in wetlands. To identify a Smartweed species correctly, it is necessary to examine the racemes and ochreae (the leaf-sheaths that wrap around the stem). Water Smartweed produces erect racemes with sparsely distributed flowers, whereas some other Smartweed species produce racemes that droop (e.g., Persicaria lapthifolium), or that are densely packed with flowers (e.g., Persicaria pennsylvanica). The ochreae of Water Smartweed are hairless, except for a few long bristles at the top. Other smartweed species may have ochreae that are hairy across the surface, and they often have very short or no bristles at the top.