Polygonum orientale with beautiful red flowers can be found as one dominant species in the vicinity of most water bodies and wetlands in China. However, its phytoremediation potential has not been sufficiently explored because little is known about its resistance to inorganic or organic pollutants. We investigated P. orientale response to low and moderate levels of phenol stress (≤ 80 mg L-1). Endpoints included phenol tolerance of P. orientale and the removal of the pollutant, antioxidant enzyme activities, damage to the cell membrane, osmotic regulators and photosynthetic pigments. In plant leaves, phenol stress significantly increased the activities of peroxidase (POD) and catalase (CAT), as well as the contents of proline, soluble sugars and carotenoids, whereas superoxide dismutase (SOD), H2O2 and electrolyte leakage (EL) levels remained unaltered. On the other hand, there were significant decreases of soluble protein and chlorophyll contents. We demonstrated that, in combination with phenol tolerance and its removal, P. orientale has efficient protection mechanisms against phenol-induced oxidative damage (≤ 80 mg L-1). We propose that P. orientale could be used as an alternative and interesting material in the phytoremediation of phenol.