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Chenopodiaceae: Goosefoot Family Plant Identification Characteristics

Chenopodiaceae
Plants of the Goosefoot Family

(Now considered a subfamily of the Amaranth Family)

      Look closely at a beet, chard, or spinach plant the next time you see one going to seed in the garden. You might notice little green "globs" forming along an upright stalk, sometimes colored with specks of yellow, the sign of pollen and stamens... yes, these globs are true flowers! If you find a weedy plant lacking obvious flowers, and forming globby or poky seeds along the stems, it is likely you have a species from this family. If you examined the flowers of a Goosefoot plant with a lens you would see 2 to 5 (usually 5) sepals, often united, and no petals. There are an equal number of stamens as sepals. The ovary is positioned superior (half inferior in Beta) and consists of 2 (rarely 3 to 5) united carpels (syncarpous) forming a single chamber. It matures as a nutlet.

      The traditional Goosefoot family included about 100 genera and 1,500 species. However, based on genetic evidence, taxonomists reclassified the Goosefoot family as a subfamily of the Amaranth family. In addition, many genera from the Goosefoots were reclassified as separate subfamilies within the Amaranth family.

      Quinoa seed is sold as a hot cereal at many health food stores; it comes from a species of Chenopodium. Spinach belongs to the genus Spinacia. Most plants in the Goosefoot subfamily are edible in salads or as pot herbs, and are rich in calcium and other minerals. However, they are largely adapted to disturbed, salty, or alkaline soils, and are prone to accumulating both selenium and nitrogen. Many species from the Goosefoot subfamily accumulate salts from the soil. The plants can be utilized as salt substitutes, either whole or burned and the ashes used. The seeds of most species are also edible. Saponins are also common.

Key Words: Weedy plants with globby or poky flowers, found in disturbed or alkaline soil.

Please e-mail Thomas J. Elpel to report mistakes or to inquire about purchasing high resolution photos of these plants.


Chenopodium album. Goosefoot or Lamb's Quarters.

Chenopodium album. Goosefoot or Lamb's Quarters.

Chenopodium album. Goosefoot or Lamb's Quarters.

Chenopodium album. Goosefoot or Lamb's Quarters.

Chenopodium foliosum. Strawberry Goosefoot.

Chenopodium foliosum. Strawberry Goosefoot.

Foraging the Mountain West
Foraging the Mountain West
Atriplex hortensis. Orache.

Atriplex hortensis. Orache.

Atriplex hortensis. Orache.

Atriplex hortensis. Orache.

Atriplex canescens. Fourwing Saltbush.

Atriplex canescens. Fourwing Saltbush.

Atriplex canescens. Fourwing Saltbush.

Atriplex canescens. Fourwing Saltbush.

Salsola iberica. Russian Thistle.

Salsola iberica. Russian Thistle. Formerly considered a member of the Goosefoot family, Russian thistle is now considered a member of the new Russian Thistle subfamily of the Amaranth family.

Salsola iberica. Russian Thistle.

Salsola iberica. Russian Thistle.

Sarcobatus vermiculatus. Greasewood.

Sarcobatus vermiculatus. Greasewood. Formerly considered a member of the Goosefoot family, greasewood is now considered a separate family of its own, Sarcobataceae.

Sarcobatus vermiculatus. Greasewood.

Sarcobatus vermiculatus. Greasewood. Red Gulch Dinosaur Track Site. Near Basin, Wyoming.

There are more
Goosefoot Family pictures
at PlantSystematics.org.


Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
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Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
Participating
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Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
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Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
Botany
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Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids
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