Chenopodium album

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Chenopodium album
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Melganzenvoet bloeiwijze Chenopodium album.jpg
Plant Info
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Magnoliopsida
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Order: Caryophyllales
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Family: Amaranthaceae
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Genus: Chenopodium
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Binomial name
Chenopodium album
Trinomial name
Type Species

Chenopodium album is a fast-growing, upright, weedy annual plant that is common in temperate regions. It occurs almost everywhere in soils rich in nitrogen, especially on wasteland.

The species is commonly known as goosefoot, fat hen, white goosefoot, lamb's quarters or dungweed.

Its pollen can contribute to hayfever-like allergies.

close-up of flower and flower bud



It tends to grow upright at first, reaching heights of 30-80 cm, but typically becomes recumbent after flowering (due to the weight of the foliage and seeds) unless supported by other plants.

The leaves are opposite and can be very varied in appearance. The first leaves, near the base of the plant, are toothed and roughly diamond-shaped, 3-7 cm long and 3-6 cm broad. The leaves on the upper part of the flowering stems are entire and lanceolate-rhomboid, 1-5 cm long and 0.4-2 cm broad. The leaves are waxy-coated, unwettable and mealy in appearance, with a whitish coat on the underside.

The small flowers are radially symmetrical and grow in small cymes on a dense branched inflorescence 10-40 cm long.


Chenopodium album has a very complex taxonomy and has been divided in numerous microspecies, subspecies and varieties, but it is difficult to differentiate between them. Published names and synonyms include C. album var. microphyllum, C. album var. missouriense, C. album var. stevensii, C. album subsp. striatum, C. acerifolium, C. centrorubrum, C. giganteum, C. jenissejense, C. lanceolatum, C. pedunculare and C. probstii. It also hybridises readily with several other Chenopodium species, including C. berlandieri, C. ficifolium, C. opulifolium, C. strictum and C. suecicum.



Lamb's quarters may be eaten as a vegetable, either steamed in its entirety, or the leaves are cooked like spinach as a leaf vegetable. Each plant produces tens of thousands of black seeds. These are high in protein, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. Quinoa is a closely related species which is grown specifically for its seeds.

As the common names suggest, it is also used as food (both the leaves and the seeds) for chickens, hens and other poultry. However, the nitrates in the plant can be converted very efficiently to nitrites in the rumen of cattle leading to changes in hemoglobin and reducing the ruminants' oxygen binding capacity.


The species is commonly regarded as a weed but it is cultivated as a grain or vegetable crop in some parts of the world.[1]

It may be controlled by frequent mowing.

Propagation and pests

Chenopodium album is vulnerable to leaf miners, making it a useful trap crop as a companion plant. Growing near other plants, it attracts leaf miners which might otherwise have attacked the crop to be protected. It is a host plant for the beet leafhopper, an insect which transmits curly top virus to beet crops.



External links

ND&QF0=Species+Code&QI0=Chenopodium+album&RF=Webdisplay PROTAbase on Chenopodium album]


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