CHENOPODIACEAE the Goosefoot Family(to Genus key)
Herbs, shrubs, or rarely small trees; ours herbaceous though sometimes woody at the base. Stems commonly more or less succulent or jointed or both. Leaves simple, opposite below and alternate above or alternate throughout, estipulate and without scarious bracts, entire to lobed, sometimes scale-like and/or succulent, glabrous to pubescent or farinose.
Flowers usually small and green or greenish, subtended by 1 bract and 2 bracteoles, or the bract, bracteoles, or both absent, borne singly to many and glomerate in the axils of leaf-like bracts or arranged in spikes, panicles, or cymes, rarely (and not in ours) flowers in terminal strobili or sunken into the stem); regular, perfect or imperfect, the plants then monoecious or dioecious. Sepals (1)5(6), free or occasionally briefly united below, imbricate in the bud, herbaceous or membranous but not scarious, occasionally absent in pistillate flowers. Corolla absent. Stamens usually as many as the sepals and opposite them, sometimes fewer, filaments free or sometimes connate basally or inserted on an annular disk or the base of the calyx. Unisexual flowers usually with nectaries reduced or absent. Gynoecium superior (half-inferior in Beta), of 2 to 3(5) fused carpels, unilocular, styles 2(3 to 5), free to more or less connate, ovule 1. Fruit a 1-seeded thin-walled utricle, achene, or nutlet, indehiscent, dehiscent irregularly, or circumscissile, often enclosed by the persistent calyx or bracteoles, occasionally (as in Beta) several fruits borne together in their calyxes to form a multiple fruit. Seed usually lens-shape with a curved or spirally twisted embryo, nutritive tissue usually perisperm. Betalain pigments rather than anthocyanins present.
About 100 genera and 1,300 to 1,500 species worldwide; 17 genera and 67 species in TX; 5 genera and 10 species here.
Many species are weedy and/or have allergenic pollen, including Lambsquarter (Chenopodium), and Tumbleweed or Russian Thistle (Salsola). Spinach (Spinacia) and beet (Beta) are grown for food. Some species of Chenopodium have edible fruits, e.g. quinoa, a pseudo-cereal of the Incas. Some genera such as Atriplex (Saltbush) are important members of desert floras.
Key to Genera of the Chenopodiaceae:
About 150 species, worldwide in distribution. The species found in TX can be expected to occur here.
1. S. pestifer A. Nels. Russian Thistle, Tumbleweed. Taprooted annual herb, much branched from the base, 3 to 10 dm tall, becoming nearly hemispherical, without a main axis but with many equal lateral branches; tumbleweed in habit. Stems and branches often tinged or streaked with red, stout, ascending to spreading, hirsute, scabrous, or short villous to glabrous. Leaves sometimes blue-green, alternate, clasping or sessile, filiform to linear, subterete and succulent, 1.2 to 4.5(8) cm long, 0.4 to 1 mm broad, reduced upwards, margins entire to denticulate, scabrous or glabrous, apex strongly spinose, base broadened, thickened, and hyaline-margined, especially on the upper leaves. Inflorescence of terminal and axillary spikes 1 to 6(10) cm long, 10 to 18 mm broad, with 2 or 3 flowers per node but only the lowermost developing fully, floral bracts narrowly lanceolate or narrowly deltoid, 3 to 15 mm long, 1.5 to 2.5 mm broad, spreading or often recurved, strongly spinose, margin entire to denticulate-crenulate; the two bracteoles beneath each flower similar but smaller. Flowers perfect, sessile. Calyx 5-lobed, lobes oval to oblong-lanceolate below the middle protuberance and narrowly deltoid above, 1.5 to 1.7 mm long, 1.1 to 1.8 mm broad, acute to acuminate, persistent, at maturity (3)6 to 10 mm broad, becoming hard below and remaining membranous above, strongly transversely winged, wings thing, membranous, crenate-dentate, whitish or tinged with red or pink, conspicuously veined, those of the lowest flowers often only carinate and not winged. Stamens 5 (or fewer), included at first and later exserted, anthers 0.5 to 1.2 mm long. Stigmas 2, 1.0 to 1.4 mm long, erect with curling tips, style shorter. Fruit obconic or obovoid, apex concave to convex, membranaceous, closely enclosing the seed and nearly the same size. Seed obconic, 1.5 to 2 mm long, 2 to 3 mm broad, black, lustrous, horizontal (rarely inverted, oblique, or erect); embryo spiral or cochleate, endosperm none. To be expected in vacant lots and cultivated fields and along roadsides and railroads. Native to N. Eurasia--S. Europe and Russia, now established worldwide; in N. Amer. from Que. to B.C., S. to CA, TX, and MO. July-Oct. [S. iberica Senn. & Pau; S. kali L. var. tenuifolia Tausch and var. ruthenica (Iljin) Soˇ in Soˇ & Jvorka; S. ruthenica Iljin]. Our plants for years have been treated as S. kali, which is apparently a species primarily of beaches and sandy coastal soils. S. australis R. Br. has been applied to S. pestifer, but is conspecific with S. kali (NYSM.) S. pestifer is the earliest available name for our taxon.
Salsola has allergenic pollen. The stems of S. kali, and presumably our species also, were once burned and the ash used in the manufacture of glass and soap (NYSM). Young shoots are edible by humans and animals, though when mature, the plants can accumulate nitrates and oxalic acid and can be toxic to livestock that eat them in large quantities (Tull.)
About 3 to 6 species in parts of the temperate Old and New Worlds. We have the one species found in TX.
1. M. nuttalliana (Schult.) Greene Povertyweed, Nuttall Monolepis. Annual herb, well-branched from the base; stems prostrate to ascending, 1 to 3 dm tall, succulent, somewhat mealy when young, becoming glabrate with age, pale green. Leaves fleshy, alternate, subsessile or short petiolate below and sessile above; blades 1 to 6.5 cm long, reduced upwards, triangular to lanceolate or ovate, with 1 divergent lobe on each side near the base and sometimes a few teeth above, otherwise entire, apically more or less acute, basally cuneate. Flowers perfect or a few pistillate, often reddish, arranged in dense, sessile, axillary clusters. Sepal 1, persistent, bract-like, herbaceous to somewhat fleshy or coriaceous, oblanceolate or spatulate, entire, acute to acutish, 1.5 to 2.5 mm long. Corolla absent. Stamen 1 or absent in pistillate flowers. Styles 2, filiform and short. Ovary and fruit compresses-ovoid, pericarp adherent to seed, finely pitted at maturity. Seed vertical, flattened, dark brown to black, 0.8 to 1.4 mm wide, margin entire; embryo annular, endosperm mealy, radicle inferior. Dry or moist, often alkaline or saline soils of roadsides, waste places, fields, etc. Throughout the state with the possible exception of deep E. TX. Manit. to B.C., S. to CA, TX, MO, Son., and on old ballast dumps in ME; also Siberia, Patagonia. Mar.-Sept.
Annual or perennial herbs woody at the base, or small shrubs. Plants often rounded or pyramidal. Stems erect, well-branched, pubescent to rarely glabrous. Leaves alternate (to opposite), linear to linear-lanceolate, entire, often terete, often fascicled. Flowers sessile, solitary or in small clusters in the axils of leaf-like bracts (bracteoles present but very minute), perfect or sometimes some only pistillate. Calyx 5-parted, herbaceous, persistent, in fruit developing horizontal membranous or scarious wings. Stamens 3 to 5, filaments compressed. Utricle depressed-globose, membranous, pericarp free from the horizontal seed. Embryo nearly annular; endosperm absent.
Variously treated as ca. 25 to 100 species, nearly all from the Old World; 2 listed for TX; 1 here. In some recent treatments (Mabberly, NYSM) Kochia is included in Bassia, which has fruit with spines or other protuberances but no wings.
Some including ours, are cultivated for ornament. The pollen is allergenic.
1. K. scoparia (L.) Roth. ex Schrad. Summer-cypress, Belvedere-cypress, Kochia, Fireweed, Mock-cypress, Mexican Firebush. Annual herb, stems erect, 3 to 20(40) dm tall, well-branched from the base, branches spreading to erect; stems and branches greenish-yellow, green, or streaked with red (sometimes plants entirely red or red-purple in fall), glabrous to glabrescent, villous, or pilose with rusty or silvery hairs. Leaves alternate, 2 to 7(10) cm long, 0.5 to 8(12) mm broad, with 1 to 3(5) prominent veins; lower leaves linear to lanceolate, oblanceolate, to narrowly obovate, apically acute to obtuse or rounded tapered to a distinct petiole to 3 mm long; upper leaves linear, elliptic, narrowly lanceolate, or oblanceolate, apically acute to acuminate, tapered slightly to a sessile base; all leaves flat, entire, ciliate, glabrate (especially above) to sometimes villous or pilose with hairs to 6 mm long. Inflorescences remote-flowered long-spiciform to short, compact-cylindric or oblong-claviform, some plants floriferous along most of the length of the stems; flowers sessile, (1)2(3 to 5) in the axils of leaflike, reduced bracts 3 to 18 mm long and with only exceedingly minute bracteoles, perfect or some functionally pistillate or staminate, or perfect and pistillate on the same plant, each subtended and enveloped by tufts of short to long hairs. Calyx campanulate to urceolate, 0.3 to 0.6 mm long at anthesis, glabrous except for the 5 ciliate lobes, at maturity 1.5 to 3 mm broad, with sepals incurved over the fruit and with 5 dorsal horizontal lobes or wings, wings ranging from short and tubercle-like to semi-membranous, flat, and oblong-rotund to triangular and obtuse, these larger wings variously lobed, 0.6(2) mm long, cellular-reticulate, often striate, but not nerved. Stamens 5, included or exserted, styles 2(3), free or commonly united for ca. 0.3 mm. Fruit a depressed-globose utricle with pericarp free from the horizontal seed. Seed obovate, (1.5)2 to 3 mm long, with faces concave, dark brown to black, dull and smooth to granular. Wasteland weed naturalized from Eurasia and also sometimes escaped from cultivation, cosmopolitan; infrequently collected here. June-Aug. [Bassia scoparia (L.) A. J. Scott; K. alata Bates].
The variety culta Farw. or forma trichophila (A. Voss) Stapf ex Schinz & Thell, Mexican Firebush, is commonly cultivated. It has a dense globose form and bright purple-red fall color. It is possible, though, that this form is the plant described by Linnaeus and that wild plants (or at least those of the Great Plains of the U.S.) are referable to K. silversiana (Pall.) C. A. Mey. (Great Plains.)
Livestock have been known to graze this plant, which has a protein digestibility on the same order as alfalfa, but may cause photosensitization in cattle. (Great Plains.)
A monotypic genus native to North America.
1. C. atriplicifolium (Spreng.) Coult. Tumble Ringwing, Winged Pigweed, Plains Tumbleweed. Taprooted annual herb, freely branched and bushy, 1 to 8 dm tall and about as broad; stems erect to spreading, divaricately branched, striate; branches slender, with obtuse angles, loosely and finely woolly, becoming glabrate with age except around the flowers. Leaves alternate, sessile to short-petiolate, petioles 0 to 15 mm long; main stems leaves 6 to 7 cm long, 1 to 1.5 cm broad, usually absent at fruiting time, the remaining leaves smaller from 2 cm long and 6 mm broad; all lanceolate to ovate, oblong, or narrowly oblong, coarsely and irregularly sinuate-dentate, teeth acute and mucronate, basally cuneate, apically acute; young leaves whitish tomentose, becoming glabrate. Flowers perfect or a few pistillate, in interrupted spikes arranged more or less in panicles, bracts narrowly oblong to narrowly elliptic, 0.3 to 1.0 cm long, toothed; bracteoles absent. Calyx lobes 5, triangular-ovate, 0.4 to 0.6 mm long, 0.4 to 0.8 mm broad, inflexed, keeled; calyx in age developing below its lobes a continuous, horizontal, membranaceous or white hyaline, irregularly lobed and toothed wing, calyx then 4 to 5 mm broad in overall diameter, covering the utricle, becoming purplish or reddish in age and more or less villous. Stamens 5. Ovary densely tomentulose. Styles 2 or 3, partly united, erect to spreading. Utricle depressed-globose, pubescent, enclosed by the calyx. Seed 1.3 to 1.7 mm in diameter, 0.8 to 1.0 mm thick, horizontal, black, smooth and with a few scattered, white, silky hairs or glabrous. Embryo annular, surrounding the mealy perisperm, radicle centrifugal. Plant with tumbleweed habit. Weedy in sandy places. Throughout the state except the coastal and S. TX plains; Manit. to IN, S. to AZ and TX, W. to WY and NM; adventive in the E. U.S. and Europe. Fruiting in the summer.
Annual or perennial (sometimes biennial) herbs, rarely suffrutescent; herbage usually farinose (mealy-coated), sometimes glandular or glabrate, sometimes strongly-scented. Stems erect to spreading, solitary or branched above or below. Leaves simple, alternate, petiolate to sessile, blades variously linear to hastate or deltoid, entire to toothed or lobed. Inflorescences axillary or terminal spikes or glomerules (rarely, and not in ours, large heads of dichotomous cymes.) Bracts present or absent, blade-like to needle-like, usually beneath the glomerules; bracteoles absent. Flowers small, inconspicuous, usually greenish or mealy, perfect or rarely unisexual. Sepals (3 to 4)5, usually united at least basally, flat or keeled, persistent in fruit. Stamens 5 or fewer, filaments sometimes basally connate. Ovary superior, unilocular; style 1 or lacking, stigmas 2 to 5, filiform. Fruit an utricle with a fleshy or membranous pericarp separable or attached to the single horizontal or vertical, lenticular seed. Seed coat smooth to rough or alveolate; embryo curved to annular, surrounding the mealy perisperm; radicle centrifugal or inferior.
About 70 to 150 species of temperate regions, many in xeric habitats; 25 species in TX; 6 here.
Many species are weedy. Some are grown as pot herbs or eaten raw like spinach. The plants have been eaten this way by such diverse peoples as Medieval Europeans and the Plains Indians of the U.S. C. ambrosioides, Mexican Tea or Wormseed, is used in medicinal preparations, usually as a vermifuge, and as a seasoning. Some species have edible fruits and were grown by Native Americans of both hemispheres. C. quinoa is an important pseudo-cereal native to the Andes. (NYSM, Kindsher, Mabberly).
In many cases, a complete specimen with mature fruit and lower stem leaves is necessary for confident identification.
1. C. ambrosioides L. Mexican Tea, Wormseed, Spanish Tea, Epazote. Taprooted annual or short-lived perennial herb. Stems erect or ascending, 3 to 10 dm tall, usually with several ascending branches; herbage with an unpleasant turpentine- or kerosene-like odor, covered with glandular resin dots, glabrous to puberulent or pubescent but never farinose. Petioles of lower leaves to ca. 18 mm long, blades ovate to oblong-lanceolate, 2 to 8(14) cm long, (0.5)1 to 5.5(6) cm broad, sinuate-dentate or -pinnatifid to serrate, teeth obtuse to acute, occasionally nearly entire, basally cuneate, apically obtuse to attenuate, usually markedly glandular-punctate (rarely eglandular); upper leaves becoming shorter, narrower, less-toothed, and eventually sessile. Flowers usually glomerate (occasionally solitary) in slender, dense or interrupted, leafy-bracted spikes; bracts lanceolate, oblanceolate, spatulate or linear, apically obtuse to attenuate, 0.3 to 2.5 cm long, 0.5 to 0.7 mm broad; bracts occasionally absent. Flowers perfect. Perianth (4)5-lobed, 0.7 to 1.0 mm long, 0.4 to 0.5 mm wide, the lobes ovate-rounded and obtuse, usually glandular, completely enclosing the fruit at maturity. Stamens 4 to 5. Fruit ovoid, pericarp thin, deciduous, rugose to smooth, free of the seed. Seed horizontal or vertical, ovoid, 0.6 to 1.0 mm broad, 0.4 to 0.5 mm thick, reddish brown to nearly black, testa rugose to smooth. Cultivated fields and waste places, also salt marshes and shores. Throughout TX. E. of the Trans-Pecos and Rolling Plains; Ont. and ME S. to FL, TX, CA, Berm., Mex., W.I, and S. and Cen. Amer.; naturalized in Eur., Asia, and Afr. Summer-fall. [includes var. anthelminicum (L.) A. Gray; C. anthelminicum L.].
The leaves are used in Mexico as a seasoning for beans. An oil from the seeds is used in folk medicine as an anthelmintic but contains a toxic alkaloid. Overdoses have caused the deaths of infants; the leaves in quantity can also be toxic (Tull, 1987).
The young stems and leaves can be eaten as a salad herb (NYSM 1992).
Four varieties have been listed for TX (Hatch, et al., 199?). These varieties have been described based on size of the sepal keels, size of style base, and shape of the inflorescence. A more useful, higher-level distinction, however, may be between cultivated and free-living subspecies (Wilson and Heiser, 1979). In this case, our plants would belong to subsp.berlandieri.
Raw or cooked leaves and dried or cooked fruits are highly nutritious and have been extensively cultivated and consumed by Native Americans throughout the plant's range (Kindscher, ). The leaves may be used in salads or as a leaf vegetable (Tull, 19??).
Several species have at one time or another been treated as varieties of C. album. Most recent treatments list no more than var. album and var. missouriense (Aellen) Bassett & Crompton (NYSM, Hatch, et al.) Our plants are referable to var. album with fruits 1.1 to 1.5 mm in diameter and lower leaves more than 1.5 times longer than wide. [C. album L. var. lanceolatum (Muhl.) Coss. & Germ.; C. lanceolatum Muhl.].
This plant has been cultivated since ancient times. The leaves are edible raw or cooked as a vegetable, but may accumulate oxalic acid which can bind calcium in the body. They should therefore not be consumed in large quantities. There are some reports of livestock poisonings. The seeds are edible cooked or dried and ground into flour. A high ratio of plant to fiber produces a bright, lightfast yellow on wool.
Last updated by HDW . on 3 February 1995