Amaranthus blitum (livid amaranth)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Natural enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Amaranthus blitum L. (1753)
Preferred Common Name
- livid amaranth
Other Scientific Names
- Albersia blitum var. oleraceus (L.) Hooker fil. (1885)
- Albersia oleracea (L.) Boiss. (1879)
- Albresia blitum ( L.) Kunth (1838)
- Amaranthus ascendens Loisel. (1810)
- Amaranthus ascendens Loisel. var. oleraceus (L.) Thell. ex Priszter (1953)
- Amaranthus ascendens Loisel. var. polygonoides (Moq.) Thell. (1912)
- Amaranthus ascendens subsp. polygonoides (Moq.) Thell. ex Pr. (1953)
- Amaranthus blitum L. subsp. emarginatus (Moq. ex Uline & Bray) Carretero, Muñoz Garm. y Pedrol
- Amaranthus blitum L. subsp. oleraceus (L.) Costea (2001)
- Amaranthus blitum subsp. polygonoides (Moq.) Carretero (1985)
- Amaranthus blitum var. ascendens (Loisel.) DC (1813)
- Amaranthus emarginatus Moq. ex Uline & Bray (1984)
- Amaranthus emarginatus Salzm. ex Moq. (1849) nom. illeg.
- Amaranthus lividus Hook. f. (1885) nom. illeg.
- Amaranthus lividus L. (1753)
- Amaranthus lividus L. proles oleraceus (L.) Thell. (1914)
- Amaranthus lividus L. proles polygonoides (Moq.) Thell. (1914)
- Amaranthus lividus L. subsp. polygonoides (Moq.) Thell. ex Probst (1949)
- Amaranthus lividus L. var. polygonoides (Moq.) Thell. ex Druce (1920)
- Amaranthus lividus proles ascendens (Loisel.) Thell. (1914)
- Amaranthus lividus proles lividus (Loisel.) Thell. (1914)
- Amaranthus lividus subsp. ascendens (Loisel.) Heukels (1934)
- Amaranthus lividus subsp. oleraceus (L.) Soó (1964)
- Amaranthus oleraceus L. (1763)
- Amaranthus polygonoides Zoll. (1845) nom. illeg.
- Blitum oleraceum (L.) Moench (1794)
- Euxolus ascendens (Loisel.) H. Hara (1938)
- Euxolus blitum (L.) Gren. (1869)
- Euxolus lividus (L.) Moq.,
- Euxolus oleraceus (L.) Moq. (1849)
- Euxolus viridis (L.) Moq. var. ascendens (Loisel.) Moq. (1849)
- Euxolus viridis L. var. polygonoides Moq. (1849)
- Glomeraria livida (L.) Cav. (1803)
- Glomeraria oleracea (L.) Cav. (1803)
- Pixydium oleraceum (L.) Moench (1794)
- Pyxidium lividum (L.) Moench (1794)
International Common Names
- English: pigweed
- Spanish: amaranto ascendente; bledo rojo
- French: amarante livide
- Portuguese: caruru-folha-de-cuia
Local Common Names
- Germany: Amarant (Bleifarbiger); Aufsteigender Amarant; Gruenlicher Amarant; Gruenlicher Fuchsschwanz
- Italy: amaranto livido
- Japan: inubiyu
- Netherlands: kleine majer
- Sweden: maallamarant
- USA: livid amaranth
- AMALI (Amaranthus lividus)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
A. blitum is a monoecious annual weed with a near global distribution. It grows between 10 and 80 cm tall, sometimes reaching 90 cm.
It was listed by Holm et al. (1979) as a serious or principal weed in ten countries, mainly across Europe and Asia but also including Nigeria and Mozambique. It occurs in a wide range of field and horticultural crops, grassland, orchards, plantations and vineyards. It appears to be especially troublesome in Japan, where it is one of the three main weeds of warmer upland farms (Takabayashi and Nakayama, 1981), and in the USA. In Minais Gerais province, Brazil, it is among the five most common weeds of coffee (Laca-Buendia and Brandao, 1994). A. blitum subsp. emarginatus potentially impacts on the native riparian herbaceous vegetation in Europe (Walter and Dobes, 2004).
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Caryophyllales
- Family: Amaranthaceae
- Genus: Amaranthus
- Species: Amaranthus blitum
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The nomenclature of A. blitum is somewhat confused, with several Linnean names involved, and needs further molecular and biogeographical study to resolve the taxonomic issues. The names A. blitum and A. lividus L. were both described by Linnaeus (1753), but their use has changed over time, revealing disagreement amongst authors. Townsend (1985, 1988) and Aellen and Akeroyd (1993) used the name A. lividus, but the Committee for Spermatophyta, meeting in 1984 (Taxon, 1984), decided that a choice between the two earliest Linnaean names (A. blitum and A. lividus) should depend on the name selected when they were first combined. As it was Hooker who first combined the two taxa and selected the name A. blitum in 1885, this became the officially preferred name (John Wiersema, USDA, personal communication, 1998). Filias et al. (1980), writing in favour of the use of A. blitum, discussed the issue in detail.
Several infraspecific names of A. blitum have been published, owing to its high phenotypic variability. Townsend (1985, 1988) recognized two subspecies: lividus and polygonoides, on the basis of their somewhat different distributions, the former robust and generally erect, apparently originating in South America and the latter, smaller and generally prostrate, in Europe and Asia. Moquin-Tandon (1849) recognized five varieties (α-ε), three of which (α, δ, ε) now referred to A. graecizans L. Thellung (1914 sub. A. lividus) recognized four subtaxa (named ‘proles’).
Recent comprehensive lists of regional floras have treated differently the varibility of A. blitum, sometimes without recognizing infraspecific taxa (e.g. Mosyakin and Robertson (2003), in the Flora of North America, or Akeroyd (1993) in Flora Europaea).
Recent detailed morphological investigations (e.g. Costea et al., 2001; Walter and Dobes, 2004) and ongoing studies (Iamonico, in prep.) show that there are three separate taxa that can be distinguished by features of the cotyledons, the leaves, the fruit, the seed sizes, seed surface and pollen pores diameter: A. blitum var. blitum, A. blitum emarginatus and A. blitum oleraceus (see Description). However, their taxonomic ranks remain uncertain.
The subspecies oleraceus is a cultigen form that rarely occurs in the wild in Europe or North America and its native distribution range is not known. Consequently, it could be argued that subsp. oleraceus should not have a taxanomic identity.
The taxa blitum and emarginatus have different origin and Iamonico (personal communication, 2013) suggests that they should be classed as species to reflect their evolutionary histories.
The specific name 'lividus' means 'red' while 'blitum' translates as 'tasteless herb'.
DescriptionTop of page
A. blitum is a monoecious annual weed. It grows between 10 and 80 cm tall, sometimes reaching 90 cm.
Stems are prostrate or ascending; sometimes erect, sometimes radiating from base and forming mats; glabrous, green to brown (occasionally reddish), usually highly-branched.
Leaves are usually green, ovate, elliptic to rhombic (see the subspecies descriptions below for the size of the leaves), margins entire, apex emarginate to bilobed (sometimes mucronate), base obtuse or cuneate, glabrous, petioled (petiole 1.0–4.0 cm long).
Synflorescences arranged in axillary glomerules and in terminal spike-like (excepting some forms of the subsp. emarginatus without a terminal spike-like synflorescence), green or brown. Floral bracts, greenwish, ovate [(0.4–)0.8–1.0 by 0.4−0.9 mm], 33-50% shorter than the perianth, acute, margin entire, glabrous. Staminate flowers with 3 tepals, ovate to lanceolate; stamens 3. Pistillate flowers with 3 tepals, lanceolate or linear, elliptic to obovate or spatulate [(0.8−)1.4–1.7(–2.0) by 0.5–1.1(−1.4) mm], with acute apex; stigmas (2−)3.
Pollen grains are small (18–28 μm diameter), have more than 18 uniformly distributed pores (pantoporate), and are covered with granules or spinules, which ensure adherence to the stigma hairs.
Fruit reddish-brown to brown-yellowish, subglobose to elipsoidal (see the subspecies descriptions below for the size of the fruit) as long as or longer than the perianth (in this latter case the length < 2 times of the width), smooth or slightly rugose, indehiscent.
Seed lenticular (see the subspecies descriptions below for diameters), black, brownish-black or dark-reddish, smooth, shiny.
Townsend (1988) indicated that there are more than three perianth segments (0.75 - 2 mm long) mainly in cultivated forms. The capsule is 1.25 - 2.5 mm long. Seeds 1 - 1.75 mm.
The recognized subspecies (blitum, emarginatus and oleraceus) mainly differ each other in cotyledon size, leaf size, fruit length, seed diameter, seed surface and pollen pore diameter. Specifically:
Amaranthus blitum subsp. blitum
Cotyledons with rounded to truncate apex, 9–18 by 3–6 mm; leaf blade size (3.0−)3.5−9.0 by 1.5−6.2 cm; length of the fruit 1.9−3.5 mm; seed diameter 1.1−1.8 mm; seed with minutely punctiform surface and diameter 1.1-1.2 mm; pollen grains with pores of 2.4–3.3 μm.
Amaranthus blitum subsp. emarginatus
Cotyledons with acute apex, 6–7 by 3–6 mm; leaf blade size 1−3.5(−4.5) by (0.5−)0.8−2.5 cm; length of the fruits (1.2−)1.4−1.8(−1.9) mm; seed diameter 0.7−1.1 mm; seed with marginal zone more evidently sculptured; pollen grains with pores of 1.6–1.9 μm.
Amaranthus blitum subsp. oleraceus
Cotyledons with rounded to truncate apex, 9–18 by 3–6 mm; leaf blade size (3.0−)3.5−9.0 by 1.5−6.2 cm; length of the fruit 1.9−3.5 mm; seed diameter 1.1−1.8 mm; seed with smooth surface and diameter 1.2-1.7(-1.9) mm; pollen grains with pores of 2.4–3.3 μm.
DistributionTop of page
The native ranges of the three subspecies (blitum, emarginatus and oleraceus) are different, although the taxa have been artificially dispersed all over the world and the original distribution ranges are now blurred. Since the infraspecific classification is yet little known, the distribution table is of A. blitum s.l., without indicating subspecies.
Amaranthus blitum subsp. blitum
Native to Mediterranean area, Europe and North Africa. Alien in North America (Costea et al., 2001, Mosyakin and Robertson 2003). It is also recorded in Asia (Bojian et al., 2003).
Amaranthus blitum subsp. emarginatus
Native to tropical America. It is considered introduced in the warm temperate regions of North America and Europe.
Amaranthus blitum subsp. oleraceus
The origin of this taxon remains uncertain. It is probably originated from a group of the subsp. blitum and is used as cultivated vegetable (e.g. Costea et al., 2001). It rarely occurs in the wild in North America and Europe.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
HabitatTop of page
A. blitum is a weed of the tropics and warm temperate areas. It is found on arable land, river banks, sandy soils and man-made habitats (waste places, roadsides, railways, gardens and orchards, especially on fertile soils).
A. blitum subsp. emarginatus seems to need a warmer climate than A. blitum subsp. blitum (Costea et al., 2003).
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page In addition to the crops listed, A. blitum is recorded as a significant weed in a wide range of unspecified vegetable, field, orchard and grass crops.
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Allium cepa (onion)||Liliaceae||Other|
|Apium graveolens (celery)||Apiaceae||Other|
|Cichorium endivia (endives)||Asteraceae||Other|
|Citrus unshiu (satsuma)||Rutaceae||Main|
|Coffea arabica (arabica coffee)||Rubiaceae||Main|
|Daucus carota (carrot)||Apiaceae||Other|
|Glycine max (soyabean)||Fabaceae||Main|
|Lactuca sativa (lettuce)||Asteraceae||Other|
|Malus sylvestris (crab-apple tree)||Rosaceae||Main|
|Solanum melongena (aubergine)||Solanaceae||Other|
|Vitis vinifera (grapevine)||Vitaceae||Main|
|Zea mays (maize)||Poaceae||Main|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
A. blitum is an annual species, reproducing by seed. The flowers are small, green and unattractive. Flowering time generally ranges from summer to winter.
A. blitum is predominantly wind-pollinated. As with other Amaranthus species, seed production is high.
Germination occurs after imbibition, when the radicle penetrates the micropyle and emerges from the seed. The hypocotyl then elongates, pushing the seed out of the soil. During movement through the soil the cotyledons and the epicotyl are protected by the seed coat (Costea et al., 2003).
Physiology and Phenology
In a study by Teitz et al. (1990), the optimum temperature for germination was found to be 35°C. Germination was inhibited at 40°C. Percentage germination of A. blitum seeds was 84% and 49% for 65 and 85 days after sowing, respectively. Seeds germinated better in light regardless of number of days after sowing. Sodium hypochlorite, ethephon, sulphuric acid and giberellic acid all promoted germination in dark conditions (Teitz et al., 1990).
The emergence of seedlings was delayed and considerably reduced in the case of crust formation and muddy soils (Gaspar et al., 2001).
The dormancy of the seeds is high and can be up to 12 months; however, viability was largely lost after 2.5 years in soil (Takabayashi and Nakayama, 1981). In Indonesia, viability was reduced by approximately 50% after 1 year’s dry storage (Purwanto and Poerba, 1990).
Nakatani and Kusanagi (1991) confirmed that in Japan, A. blitum behaves as a day-neutral plant. Simbolon and Sutarno (1986) studied responses of Amaranthus spp. to reduced light intensity and found all those studied, including A. blitum, to be moderately tolerant of shade.
Noguchi and Nakayama (1978) studied the response of A. blitum to fertilizer. Relative growth rate was increased by fertilizer up to 51 days. Lack of fertilizer delayed flowering.
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Alfalfa mosaic virus||Pathogen|
|Tobacco mosaic virus||Pathogen|
|Tomato spotted wilt virus||Pathogen|
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
The fruits and seeds of A. blitum are able to float and can be dispersed by rain drops or streamlets caused by rain, surface irrigation or water courses.
ImpactTop of page
A. blitum is listed by Holm et al. (1979) as a serious or principal weed in ten countries, mainly across Europe and Asia but also including Nigeria and Mozambique. It occurs in a wide range of field and horticultural crops, grassland, orchards, plantations and vineyards. It appears to be especially troublesome in Japan, where it is one of the three main weeds of warmer upland farms (Takabayashi and Nakayama, 1981), and in the USA. It has become more important in Malaysian plantations with the development of biotypes resistant to paraquat. In Minais Gerais province, Brazil, it is among the five most common weeds of coffee (Laca-Buendia and Brandao, 1994).
It survives passage through the digestive tracts of cattle and may be spread with contaminated dung (Takabayashi et al., 1979). There are also reports of fatal poisoning of cattle following grazing on seedlings of A. blitum (Ferreira et al., 1991).
A. blitum subsp. emarginatus potentially impacts on the native riparian herbaceous vegetation in Europe (Walter and Dobes, 2004).
UsesTop of page
A. blitum has been cultivated as a vegetable in Africa, Central and North America (USA and the Caribbean), Asia (China, India, Nepal), Europe (Greece, Italy, Romania) and the South Pacific Islands (Costea et al., 2003). In India it is grown as a leafy vegetable and is known as 'chauli' or 'pokla' (Subbiah and Ramanathan, 1982; Keskar et al., 1983).
The contents of oxalate in leaves (0.08%) and stems (0.15%) increase in plants under stress, but can be reduced by boiling (Abbott and Cambell, 1982).
Nitrate levels in the leaves are equal or superior to spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.). The levels of proteins (22-27%, rich in arginin, tryptophan, isoleucine, and leucine), vitamins (vitamin C and B) and minerals (Ca, Fe, K, Mg, P, S, Al, Zn, Cu) is very high (see Costea et al., 2003). Fibre content is also high.
Its potential as a food crop was reviewed by Turchi (1987).
Fluid extracts are used for throat and mouth ulcers, and due to its astringency, it is recommended for diarrhoea and dysentery (Grieve, 1978). The juice of A. blitum was found to inhibit mutagenesis induced by benzo[a]pyrene, 2-amino-fluorene and 3-amino-1,4 dimethyl-5H-pyridol in Salmonella Typhimurium (Seung et al., 1997).
Uses ListTop of page
Human food and beverage
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
A. blitum, depending on its habit, may be confused with a number of the more prostrate species within the Amaranthus genus (for example, A. graecizans), and also the more erect species such as A. viridis. It differs from all of these in having markedly indented leaf tips. Additionally, it may be distinguished from the prostrate species by the possession of a dense, more or less leafless terminal inflorescence. Of those more erect species with terminal inflorescences, A. viridis is most similar, but has a rounded, rugose fruit hardly exceeding the perianth.
The fruit of A. graecizans has a smooth or slightly rugose surface, like A. blitum. However, the synflorescence in A. graecizans are arranged in axillary glomerules, whereas in A. blitum they are usually arranged as spikes or panicles. In some forms of A. blitum subsp. emarginatus the terminal spike/panicle-like synflorescence is lacking; these forms are easily distinguish from A. graecizans as the leaf apex is emarginate to bilobed, whereas with A. graecizans the leaf apex is usually acute, sometimes obtuse, but never bilobed.
A. blitum may also be confused with members of the subgenus Albersia, particularly A. albus L.
For keys and illustrations to species of Amaranthus see Hafliger and Brun-Hool (undated), Townsend (1985; 1988) and Aellen and Akeroyd (1993). Comparisons of seed morphology are made by Pita and Martinez-Labourde (1992) and Groth et al. (1983). Comparisons of cotyledon morphology are presented by Pita and Mertinez-Labourde (1994).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
As a small-seeded annual weed, A. blitum is readily controlled by conventional tillage methods at the seedling stage.
A. blitum is susceptible to most standard herbicides for annual broad-leaved species, including, for example, metolachlor, metazachlor, linuron, pendimethalin, prometryne, terbutryne, ethofumesate, thiobencarb, oxyfluorfen, lactofen, imazethapyr, amidosulfuron, bentazon, bromoxynil and glyphosate. It is moderately susceptible to 2,4-D and MCPA (Mamarot and Rodriguez, 1997). It was not well controlled by bromacil in Japan (Takahashi et al., 1977), bentazon in Belgium (van Himme et al., 1986), 2,4-D or glufosinate in Malaysia (Itoh et al., 1992), nor by triazines in Belgium (Bulcke and van Himme, 1989). The latter authors state that they could not confirm the development of triazine resistance in this species, while in Switzerland, poor control of A. blitum was attributed to the rapid inactivation of atrazine in acid soils (Maigre, 1991). Resistance to paraquat, however, has developed in Malaysia (Itoh et al., 1992), while in Korea, it is regarded as 'tolerant' (Kang and Shim, 1995). Manley et al. (1996) conclude that in northeastern USA, A. blitum is naturally tolerant of nicosulfuron and may have developed resistance to imazethapyr.
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
The nomenclature of A. blitum is quite confused and further molecular and biogeographical studies are needed to resolve it.
ReferencesTop of page
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ContributorsTop of page
22/09/98 Original text by:
Chris Parker, Consultant, UK
31/08/13 Updated by:
Duilio Iamonico, University of Rome Sapienza, Italy
Distribution MapsTop of page
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