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Chenopodium berlandieri
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Amaranthaceae
Subfamily: Chenopodioideae
Tribe: Atripliceae
Genus: Chenopodium
L. (1753)

132; see text

  • Agatophyton Fourr. (1869)
  • Blitum Hill (1757), nom. illeg.
  • Botrys Rchb. ex Nieuwl. (1914)
  • Einadia Raf. (1838)
  • Rhagodia R.Br. (1810)
  • Vulvaria Bubani (1897), nom. illeg.
  • Chenopodium sect. Leprophyllum Dumort.
  • Chenopodium sect. Chenopodiastrum Moq.

Chenopodium is a genus of numerous species of perennial or annual herbaceous flowering plants known as the goosefoot, which occur almost anywhere in the world.[3] It is placed in the family Amaranthaceae in the APG II system; older classification systems, notably the widely used Cronquist system, separate it and its relatives as Chenopodiaceae,[4] but this leaves the rest of the Amaranthaceae polyphyletic. However, among the Amaranthaceae, the genus Chenopodium is the namesake member of the subfamily Chenopodioideae.[2]


White goosefoot (Chenopodium album)

The species of Chenopodium (s.str., description according to Fuentes et al. 2012)[2] are annual or perennial herbs, shrubs or small trees.[5] They generally rely on alkaline soil.[5] They are nonaromatic, but sometimes fetid. The young stems and leaves are often densely covered by vesicular globose hairs, thus looking farinose. Characteristically, these trichomes persist, collapsing later and becoming cup-shaped. The branched stems grow erect, ascending, prostrate or scrambling. Lateral branches are alternate (the lowermost ones can be nearly opposite). The alternate or opposite leaves are petiolate. Their thin or slightly fleshy leaf blade is linear, rhombic or triangular-hastate, with entire or dentate or lobed margins.[2]

Inflorescences are standing terminal and lateral. They consist of spicately or paniculately arranged glomerules of flowers. Plants are monoecious (rarely dioecious). In monoecious plants flowers are dimorphic or pistillate. Flowers consist of (4–) 5 perianth segments connate, basally or close to the middle, usually membranous margined and with a roundish to keeled back; almost always 5 stamens, and one ovary with 2 stigmas.[2]

In fruit, perianth segments become sometimes coloured, but mostly keep unchanged, somewhat closing over or spreading from the fruit. The pericarp is membranous or sometimes succulent, adherent to or loosely covering the seed. The horizontally oriented seeds are depressed-globular to lenticular, with rounded to subacute margin. The black seed coat is almost smooth to finely striate, rugulose or pitted.[2]

Uses and human importance[edit]

Cooked quinoa (C. quinoa) seeds

The genus Chenopodium contains several plants of minor to moderate importance as food crops as leaf vegetables – used like the closely related spinach (Spinacia oleracea) and similar plants called quelite in Mexico – and pseudocereals.[citation needed] These include white goosefoot (C. album), kañiwa (C. pallidicaule) and quinoa (C. quinoa). On the Greek island of Crete, tender shoots and leaves of a species called krouvida (κρουβίδα) or psarovlito (ψαρόβλητο) are eaten by the locals, boiled or steamed.[citation needed] As studied by Bruce D. Smith, Kristen Gremillion and others, goosefoots have a history of culinary use dating back to 4000 BC or earlier, when pitseed goosefoot (C. berlandieri) was a staple crop in the Native American Eastern Agricultural Complex,[citation needed] and when white goosefoot was apparently used by the Ertebølle culture of Europe.[citation needed] Members of the eastern European Yamnaya culture also harvested white goosefoot as an apparent cereal substitute to round out an otherwise mostly meat and dairy diet c. 3500–2500 BC.[6]

There is increased interest in particular in goosefoot seeds today, which are suitable as part of a gluten-free diet.[citation needed] Quinoa oil, extracted from the seeds of C. quinoa, has similar properties, but is superior in quality, to corn oil.[citation needed] Oil of chenopodium is extracted from the seeds of epazote, which is not in this genus anymore.[citation needed] Shagreen leather was produced in the past using the small, hard goosefoot seeds.[citation needed] C. album was one of the main model organisms for the molecular biological study of chlorophyllase.[citation needed]

Goosefoot pollen, in particular of the widespread and usually abundant C. album, is an allergen to many people and a common cause of hay fever.[7] The same species, as well as some others, have seeds which are able to persist for years in the soil seed bank.[citation needed] Many goosefoot species are thus significant weeds, and some have become invasive species.[7]

In Australia, the larger Chenopodium species are among the plants called "bluebushes".[citation needed] According to the 1889 book The Useful Native Plants of Australia, Chenopodium auricomum "is another of the salt-bushes, which, besides being invaluable food for stock, can be eaten by man. All plants of the Natural Order Chenopodiaceae (Salsolacese) are more or less useful in this respect." The book goes on to give the following account from the Journal de la Ferme et des Maisons de campagne:[8]

We have recently gathered an abundant harvest of leaves from two or three plants growing in our garden. These leaves were put into boiling water to blanch them, and they were then cooked as an ordinary dish of spinach, with this difference in favour of the new plant, that there was no occasion to take away the threads which are so disagreeable in chicory, sorrel, and ordinary spinach. We partook of this dish with relish—the flavour—analogous to spinach, had something in it more refined, less grassy in taste. The cultivation is easy: sow the seed in April (October) in a well-manured bed, for the plant is greedy; water it. The leaves may be gathered from the time the plant attains 50 centimetres (say 20 inches) in height. They grow up again quickly. In less than eight days afterwards another gathering may take place, and so on to the end of the year.

Chualar, California is named after a Native American term for a goosefoot abundant in the region, probably the California goosefoot (Blitum californicum).[citation needed]


Certain species grow in large thickets, providing cover for small animals. Goosefoot foliage is used as food by the caterpillars of certain Lepidoptera.[citation needed] The seeds are eaten by many birds, such as the yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) of Europe or the white-winged fairy-wren (Malurus leucopterus) of Australia.[citation needed] Goosefoot pathogens include the positive-sense ssRNA viruses – apple stem grooving virus, sowbane mosaic virus and tobacco necrosis virus.[citation needed]


The genus Chenopodium was described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 (In: Species Plantarum, Vol. 1, p. 218–222). Type species is Chenopodium album. This generic name is derived from the particular shape of the leaf, which is similar to a goose's foot: from Greek χήν (chen), "goose" and πούς (pous), "foot" or ποδίον (podion), "little foot".

In its traditional circumscription, Chenopodium comprised about 170 species.[3] Phylogenetic research revealed, that the genus was highly polyphyletic and did not reflect how species were naturally related. Therefore, a new classification was necessary. Mosyakin & Clemants (2002, 2008) separated the glandular species as genus Dysphania (which includes epazote) and Teloxys in tribe Dysphanieae. Fuentes-Bazan et al. (2012) separated many species to genera Blitum (in tribe Anserineae), Chenopodiastrum, Lipandra, and Oxybasis (like Chenopodium in tribe Atripliceae). They included Rhagodia and Einadia in Chenopodium.[2]


132 species are currently accepted.[1]

ʻĀheahea (Chenopodium oahuense)
Chenopodium candolleanum
Chenopodium ficifolium
Chenopodium giganteum

Excluded species[edit]

Fossil record[edit]

Chenopodium wetzleri fossil seeds of the Chattian stage, Oligocene, are known from the Oberleichtersbach Formation in the Rhön Mountains, central Germany.[10]


  1. ^ a b c Chenopodium L. Plants of the World Online. Retrieved 4 April 2024.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Susy Fuentes-Bazan, Pertti Uotila, Thomas Borsch: A novel phylogeny-based generic classification for Chenopodium sensu lato, and a tribal rearrangement of Chenopodioideae (Chenopodiaceae). In: Willdenowia. Vol. 42, No. 1, 2012, p. 5-24.
  3. ^ a b Gelin Zhu, Sergei L. Mosyakin & Steven E. Clemants: Chenopodium - In: Wu Zhengyi, Peter H. Raven, Deyuan Hong (Hrsg.): Flora of China. Volume 5: Ulmaceae through Basellaceae. Science Press/Missouri Botanical Garden Press, Beijing/St. Louis 2003, ISBN 1-930723-27-X, p. 378-.
  4. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Chenopodium" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 80.
  5. ^ a b Taylor, Ronald J. (1994) [1992]. Sagebrush Country: A Wildflower Sanctuary (rev. ed.). Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Pub. Co. p. 64. ISBN 0-87842-280-3. OCLC 25708726.
  6. ^ Anthony, David (2007). The horse, the wheel, and language. Princeton university press. pp. 302–303.
  7. ^ a b "Amaranthus and Chenopodium". 2017-10-13. Retrieved 2021-03-03.
  8. ^ J. H. Maiden (1889). The useful native plants of Australia : Including Tasmania. Turner and Henderson, Sydney. pp. 15–16.
  9. ^ English Names for Korean Native Plants (PDF). Pocheon: Korea National Arboretum. 2015. p. 407. ISBN 978-89-97450-98-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 May 2017. Retrieved 24 December 2016 – via Korea Forest Service.
  10. ^ The floral change in the tertiary of the Rhön mountains (Germany) by Dieter Hans Mai - Acta Paleobotanica 47(1): 135-143, 2007.

Further reading[edit]