Chenopodiaceae: Goosefoot Family — Chenopodium

The Goosefoot family will not win any beauty prizes.  The flowers are in small globular clumps, having no petals but with 5 sepals.  Leaves are simple, sometimes fleshy or reduced to scales.  Some plants in this family are cultivated for human food, for example Lamb’s Quarters and Quinoa.  Chard, Spinach and Beets are in the closely-related Amaranthaceae family.

Lamb’s Quarters – Chenopodium album

Blooms:

June–Oct

Plant Height:

18–100 cm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Europe

Habitat:

Disturbed areas & fields

Notes:

At first sight this might be mistaken for a Mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana) or a dock, but the tight powdery clusters of flowers/fruits (typical of goosefoots) with tiny greenish-yellow flowers are distinctive.  Leaves are 25-–70 mm long, dull green above, lanceolate and slightly dentate. This species is notoriously variable in appearance.

California Goosefoot – Chenopodium californicum

Blooms:

Mar–Sept

Plant Height:

20–90 cm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Dryish open sites, many communities

Notes:

Common and easily recognized by its large, coarsely toothed, nettle-like leaves, and its long flower spike (up to 20 cm).  Spherical clusters of tiny flowers mature into reddish fruits, and finally black seeds.

Coast Goosefoot – Chenopodium macrospermum

Blooms:

July–Oct

Plant Height:

8–60 cm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

South America

Habitat:

Moist places near coast

Notes:

This has stout, reddish stems which branch from the base.  The lower branches are decumbent, the upper ones ascending.  Leaves are diamond-shaped to deltate with serrated margins, powdery below.  Clusters of flowers are in terminal or axillary spikes.

Nettle-leaved / Wall Goosefoot – Chenopodium murale

Blooms:

June–Oct

Plant Height:

15–50 cm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Europe

Habitat:

Disturbed areas & fields

Notes:

A smallish, spreading plant, branching from its base.  Leaves are 8–40 mm, toothed, ovate to deltate, shiny and dark green above.  Flowers and fruits are in small terminal or axillary clusters.

Narrow-leaved Goosefoot – Chenopodium pratericola

Blooms:

June–Sept

Plant Height:

16–65 cm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Open, dry places

Notes:

Generally erect, either simple or branched.  Leaves are 3–5 x as long as they are wide, elliptic to narrowly lanceolate.  The leaves are 1- or 3-veined, entire or 1–2-lobed at their base.  Flowers and fruits are in small terminal or axillary clusters.