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Family: Chenopodiaceae

Kingdom: Plantae Rank: Family Parent: Caryophyllales Status: Valid

Common Names:

  • GOOSEFOOT - English, United States of America
  • PIGWEED FAMILY - English, United States of America

Morphological Description

Family Recognition in the Field: Herbs often with succulent stems and leaves; leaves usually alternate, simple; flowers very small, inconspicuous, apetalous, greenish, not subtended by scarious bracts, often in spikes; filaments separate. Amaranthaceae have similar flowers (e.g., very small, lacking petals), but have scarious (= dry, papery), often colored bracts below each flower and united filaments.

Diagnosis: Ours annual, biennial, or perennial herbs with stems often succulent; leaves alternate (rarely opposite), simple, the blades entire or rather coarsely or irregularly and bluntly toothed or lobed, often succulent; stipules absent; flowers 1-many, glomerate in spikes or panicles of spikes or axillary, perfect or unisexual, very small; sepals 0-5, green, sometimes with white to yellowish or pink margins; petals absent; stamens 0-5; pistil 1; ovary usually superior; fruit a 1- seeded indehiscent or irregularly rupturing urticle.


Notes: A medium-large (1,300 species in 103 genera) cosmopolitan family, especially of desert or dry areas; most are herbaceous with some shrubs or rarely small trees; many are halophytes (= capable of living in areas of high salt concentrations) or xerophytes. The family includes food plants such as Beta vulgaris L. (BEET, SUGAR BEET, and SWISS CHARD), Chenopodium quinoa Willd. (the Andean crop QUINOA), and Spinacia oleracea L. (SPINACH) as well as a number of agricultural weeds. They exhibit the unusual, reddish, nitrogen-containing pigments known as betalains (characteristic of most Caryophyllidae-Cronquist & Thorne 1994) which derive their name from the genus Beta). Many species have Kranz anatomy and the associated C4 photosynthetic pathway, an integrated set of anatomical and physiological adaptations for hot dry conditions. Molecular evidence indicated the family is most closely related to Amaranthaceae (Downie & Palmer 1994). [a PLANT OF TOXIC/ POISONOUS NATURE]. (1993) cited references indicating that many weedy Chenopodiaceae produce allergy-causing pollen that can give rise to asthma and rhinitis. (subclass Caryophyllidae)