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Lambsquarters

Scientific Name:
Chenopodium album
Family:
Native Name(s):
  1. Northern Paiute: wa˙'ta' (Kelly 1932)
Description:

Plant

Chenopodium album is a non-native, rapidly growing, summer annual herb. It grows to 1 m tall on average, but can vary from a few cm to 2 m. The stem is erect, sturdy, and tinged with red or striped with pink, purple, or yellow. The leaves vary in shape from triangular to ovate to lanceolate. Leaves are thick with small white glands that are especially dense on the lower surface. Basal leaves may have a goosefoot shape while upper ones are linear. Chenopodium album has clustered spikes of greenish, minute, unstalked flowers. Its seeds are usually round with notched edges. The seed surface is slightly roughened or glossy and the color varies from black to brown to brownish green. The species blooms from June to October. 

Identification Tips

Chenopodium album is distinct by its height and growth in disturbed soils. Chenopodium nevadense grows to a maximum of 40 cm

Starch Granules

The species produces very small starch granules, ranging from 1 to 2 microns in length. Singular granules are spheroid in shape, with centric hila. Margins are smooth. However, granules are often found in dense clusters of amyoplasts (sheets) bounded by cell walls. Staining is often necessary to identify these starches. 

Habitat:

Chenopodium album grows at elevations below 1800 m on cultivated land, disturbed sites, and roadsides.

Distribution:

This species grows throughout North America, except in the Arctic Islands.

Ethnography:

This species is a non-native weed. As the result of its wide distribution across diverse landscapes, Chenopodium album has been an important food resource for protohistoric Native populations in North America. The seeds and fruits were prepared in various ways, but generally they were parched, ground into meal and consumed.

As food

Northern Paiute: "Edible seeds included...wa˙'ta' (Chenopodium album L.); üyü'p (Chenopodium nevadense Standley)..." (Kelly 1932: 98)

Northern Paiute: "[In regards to seed plants sometimes broken by hand] Break or pull up entire plant of lamb's quarters, pile plants on bare hard ground, and beat out seeds with long straight stick." (Voegelin 1942:175)

Distribution Map: