Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Chenopodium album
(fat hen)



Chenopodium album (fat hen)


  • Last modified
  • 06 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Chenopodium album
  • Preferred Common Name
  • fat hen
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • C. album seems to grow most vigorously in temperate and subtemperate regions, but it is also a potentially serious weed in almost all winter-sown crops of the tropics and subtropics. It is a common weed in abou...

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An adult individual of Chenopodium album.
TitleC. album
CaptionAn adult individual of Chenopodium album.
CopyrightR.K. Malik
An adult individual of Chenopodium album.
C. albumAn adult individual of Chenopodium album.R.K. Malik
Chenopodium album plants.
TitleC. album
CaptionChenopodium album plants.
CopyrightR.K. Malik
Chenopodium album plants.
C. albumChenopodium album plants.R.K. Malik
Leaves of C. album.
CaptionLeaves of C. album.
CopyrightR.K. Malik
Leaves of C. album.
LeavesLeaves of C. album.R.K. Malik
Chenopodium album seedlings.
CaptionChenopodium album seedlings.
CopyrightR.K. Malik
Chenopodium album seedlings.
SeedlingsChenopodium album seedlings.R.K. Malik
A. Chenopodium murale and B. Chenopodium album. (Sen, 1981).|C. murale (A) and C. album (B), (Sen, 1981).
TitleLine artwork of Chenopodium species
CaptionA. Chenopodium murale and B. Chenopodium album. (Sen, 1981).|C. murale (A) and C. album (B), (Sen, 1981).
CopyrightR.K. Malik
A. Chenopodium murale and B. Chenopodium album. (Sen, 1981).|C. murale (A) and C. album (B), (Sen, 1981).
Line artwork of Chenopodium speciesA. Chenopodium murale and B. Chenopodium album. (Sen, 1981).|C. murale (A) and C. album (B), (Sen, 1981).R.K. Malik
An adult flowering plant showing inflorescences clustered in panicles at the end of branches.
TitleC. album
CaptionAn adult flowering plant showing inflorescences clustered in panicles at the end of branches.
CopyrightR.K. Malik
An adult flowering plant showing inflorescences clustered in panicles at the end of branches.
C. albumAn adult flowering plant showing inflorescences clustered in panicles at the end of branches.R.K. Malik
Chenopodium album (fat hen); inflorescence.
CaptionChenopodium album (fat hen); inflorescence.
Copyright©Rasbak – CC BY-SA 3.0
Chenopodium album (fat hen); inflorescence.
InflorescenceChenopodium album (fat hen); inflorescence.©Rasbak – CC BY-SA 3.0


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Chenopodium album L. 1753

Preferred Common Name

  • fat hen

Other Scientific Names

  • Chenopodium album subsp. reticulatum (Aellen) Beauge ex Greuter & Burdet
  • Chenopodium reticulatum Aellen

International Common Names

  • English: bacon-weed; common lambsquarters (US); frost-blite; mealweed; pigweed; white goosefoot
  • Spanish: campo; cenizo; chual; quinoa; quniqua del quniquilla; salado; yuyo blanco
  • French: anserine blanche; chenopode blanc; farineuse
  • Portuguese: acarinha-branca; catassol

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: ancarinha-branca
  • Denmark: hvidmelet gaasefod
  • Ethiopia: amadamddo
  • Finland: jauhosavikka
  • Germany: Gemeiner gansefuss; Weisser Gansefuss
  • India: bathu; bathua; chandan bathua; jhil; kulf; pappu kura; parupu kire; vastuk
  • Indonesia: dieng putih
  • Iran: salmak
  • Italy: farinaccio; selvatico
  • Japan: akaza; shiroza
  • Netherlands: luismelde
  • Norway: meldestokk
  • Pakistan: bathwra; jhill
  • South Africa: withondebossie
  • Sweden: svinmalla; vitmalla
  • Taiwan: li
  • Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro): pepejiuga

EPPO code

  • CHEAL (Chenopodium album)

Summary of Invasiveness

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C. album seems to grow most vigorously in temperate and subtemperate regions, but it is also a potentially serious weed in almost all winter-sown crops of the tropics and subtropics. It is a common weed in about 40 crops in 47 countries, being most frequent in sugarbeet, potatoes, maize and cereals. It is one of the principal weeds of Canada and Europe, and in India, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa is ranked amongst the six most serious weeds. In temperate climates, it is a problem in almost all summer- and winter-sown crops.

In subtropical regions it is most common in wheat, chickpea, barley, winter vegetables, horticultural gardens, maize, sunflower and soybean. In addition, it is an important weed of tea and upland rice in Japan, citrus orchards and vineyards in Spain, cotton, soyabean and strawberries in the former Soviet Union, cotton, pastures and groundnuts in the USA, rice in Mexico and tobacco in Canada. In Europe and America, it is a problem weed in maize, soybean, wheat, barley, potato and all vegetable crops.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Caryophyllales
  •                         Family: Chenopodiaceae
  •                             Genus: Chenopodium
  •                                 Species: Chenopodium album

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The genus Chenopodium comprises around 150 species, of which C. quinoa and C. album are important nutritionally. C. album appears to be free of nomenclature problems, but it has been recorded as hybridizing with a number of members of the genus, namely: C. ficifolium  (= C. x zahnii), C. berlandieri (= C. x variabile), C. opulifolium (= C. x preissmannii) and C. suecicum (= C. x fursajewii). The generic name is derived from the Greek word Chen, meaning goose, and the Latin word podium (foot). The species name, album (meaning white) refers to the white-grey grainy particles that are found on the undersides of the leaves.

C. album is somewhat poorly circumscribed taxonomically, and genotypes cultivated in the Himalayas that are assigned to C. album bear little similarity to the weedy form of C. album (Partap et al., 1998). However, C. album and related hexaploid species have a single flavonoid profile that supports the recognition of a single species (Rahiminejad and Gornall, 2004). Studies by Mandák et al. (2012) confirm that Chenopodium species do not hybridize freely across ploidy levels and analysis is DNA content suggests that C. album is an alloploid derivative of a cross between unknown diploid and tetraploid species.



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An erect, branched (occasionally unbranched) annual herb, green, more or less coated with white mealy pubescence. Cotyledons petiole, lanceolate-linear, mealy, bluish-grey with a reddish tinge beneath, 6–12 mm long and 1.5–4 mm broad (Korsmo et al., 1981). Roots stout and tapering at the end. Many branches may emerge from main tap root system. Epidermal cells are more or less polygonal in shape. Fewer, smaller stomata on upper compared to lower leaf surface (Srivastava, 1967). Stems erect, branched towards apex, 0.2–2 m tall, glabrous, furrowed, often with red or light-green streaks, branching varies from slight to extensive. Leaves alternate, simple ovate to rhomboid-oval, uppermost leaves mostly lanceolate, sometimes linear and sessile, glabrous, usually white with a mealy-covering, particularly on young leaves, all leaves densely covered with small, utriculate hairs. Inflorescence in irregular spikes clustered in panicles at the ends of the branches. Flower perfect, small, sessile, green; calyx of 5 sepals that are more or less keeled and nearly covering the mature fruit; petals 1; stamens 5, pistil 1, with 2 or 3 styles, ovary single-celled, attached at right angles to the flower axis. Fruits is an achene (seed covered by the thin papery pericarp). Seed nearly circular in outline, oval in cross section, sides convex, glossy, black, mean size 1.5 mm x 1.4 mm in diameter, weight 1.2 mg.



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C. album is a cosmopolitan weed which is so widely distributed that its geographical origin is obscured. It is equally widely distributed in both the northern and southern hemispheres, occurring in Asia, North America, Europe  (Brenan and Akeroyd, 1993), India, South Africa, Australia and South America (Williams, 1963). It is present throughout North America  (Bassett and Crompton, 1978Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987). In tropical regions it is mostly found at higher altitudes. It is domesticated in the Himalayan region where it is grown as a grain crop and it is cultivated as a traditional leafy vegetable in India (Jansen, 2004). There is archaeological evidence to suggest it was cultivated as a pseudocereal in Europe in prehistory (Stokes and Rowley-Conwy, 2002).


Distribution Table

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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.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


AfghanistanPresentHolm et al., 1991
BangladeshPresentHolm et al., 1991
BhutanPresentParker, 1992
ChinaWidespreadWang, 1990; Holm et al., 1991
IndiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
-GujaratWidespreadSaraswat, 1993
-HaryanaWidespreadSaraswat, 1993
-Himachal PradeshWidespreadSaraswat, 1993
-Indian PunjabWidespreadSaraswat, 1993
-Jammu and KashmirWidespreadHooker, 1885
-KarnatakaWidespreadSaldanha, 1984
-Madhya PradeshWidespreadRajput et al., 1993
-MaharashtraWidespreadSaraswat, 1993
-RajasthanWidespreadYadav et al., 1995
-SikkimWidespreadHooker, 1885
-Uttar PradeshWidespreadSaraswat, 1993
-West BengalWidespreadHooker, 1885
IndonesiaPresentHolm et al., 1977
IranWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
IraqPresentHolm et al., 1991
IsraelWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
JapanWidespreadNumata and Yoshikawa, 1975; Holm et al., 1991
Korea, Republic ofWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
LebanonPresentEdgecombe, 1970
MongoliaWidespreadMalik and Tsedev, 1996
NepalPresentHolm et al., 1991
PakistanWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
Saudi ArabiaPresentChaudhary et al., 1981
Sri LankaWidespreadSen, 1981
TaiwanPresentHolm et al., 1991
TurkeyWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
United Arab EmiratesPresentChaudhary et al., 1981
YemenPresentChaudhary et al., 1981


AlgeriaPresentHolm et al., 1991
BotswanaPresentWells et al., 1986; Brenan, 1988
East AfricaPresentHolm et al., 1977
EgyptPresentTackholm, 1974
EthiopiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
KenyaPresentHolm et al., 1991
LesothoPresentWells et al., 1986
MoroccoPresentHolm et al., 1991
MozambiquePresentBrenan, 1988
NamibiaPresentWells et al., 1986
South AfricaWidespreadWells et al., 1986; Holm et al., 1991
SwazilandPresentWells et al., 1986
TanzaniaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
TunisiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
UgandaWidespreadDyer and Thisleton, 1979
ZambiaPresentBrenan, 1988
ZimbabwePresentBrenan, 1988; Holm et al., 1991

North America

CanadaWidespreadBassett and Crompton, 1978; Holm et al., 1991
MexicoWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
USAWidespreadLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; Holm et al., 1991
-AlaskaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
-HawaiiPresentHaselwood and Motter, 1966

South America

ArgentinaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
BrazilWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
-GoiasPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Minas GeraisPresentLorenzi, 1982
-ParanaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Rio de JaneiroPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Rio Grande do SulPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Santa CatarinaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Sao PauloPresentLorenzi, 1982
ChileWidespreadHolm et al., 1977
ColombiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
PeruPresentAragon and Gutierrez, 1992


AustriaPresentSchratt-Ehrendorfer, 2012
BelgiumWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
BulgariaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
Czechoslovakia (former)WidespreadHolm et al., 1991
DenmarkPresentHolm et al., 1991
FinlandWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
FranceWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
GermanyWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
HungaryWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
ItalyWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
NetherlandsPresentHolm et al., 1991
NorwayWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
PolandPresentHolm et al., 1991; Kubat et al., 1996
PortugalWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
RomaniaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
Russian FederationWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
SpainWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
SwedenWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
SwitzerlandPresentHolm et al., 1991
UKWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
UkraineWidespreadManko et al., 1996
Yugoslavia (former)WidespreadHolm et al., 1991


AustraliaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-New South WalesPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-QueenslandPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-South AustraliaPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-TasmaniaPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-VictoriaPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-Western AustraliaPresentLazarides et al., 1997
New ZealandWidespreadHolm et al., 1991


Top of page C. album occurs from sea level to altitudes of 3600 m, and from latitudes 70°N to more than 50°S. It is a common weed of almost all cultivated crops, gardens, horticultural crops and orchards. It is also found on wasteland, in pastures and strips of uncultivated land, and along roadsides and riverbanks. It is tolerant of a wide range of cultural conditions, climates, soil types, fertility and pH, a fact reflected in Coquilat's (1951) suggestion that it is one of the five most widely distributed plants in the world. It is most vigorous in fertile, heavy and well-irrigated soils (reaching up to 2 m in height), often remaining as a dwarf in dryer and less fertile soils.

Habitat List

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Hosts/Species Affected

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C. album seems to grow most vigorously in temperate and subtemperate regions, however it is also a potentially serious weed in almost all winter-sown crops of the tropics and subtropics. It is a common weed in about 40 crops in 47 countries, being most frequent in sugarbeet, potatoes, corn and cereals. It is one of the principal weeds of Canada and Europe, and in India, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa is ranked amongst the six most serious weeds (Holm et al., 1977). In temperate climates, it is a problem in almost all summer- and winter-sown crops.

In subtropical regions it is most common in wheat, chickpea, barley, winter vegetables, horticultural gardens, maize, sunflower and soybean. In addition, it is an important weed of tea and upland rice in Japan, citrus orchards and vineyards in Spain, cotton, soyabean and strawberries in the former Soviet Union, cotton, pastures and peanuts in the USA, rice in Mexico and tobacco in Canada (Holm et al., 1977). In Europe and America, it is a problem weed in maize, soybean, wheat, barley, potato and all vegetable crops.

Biology and Ecology

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C. album reproduces solely by seed. Individuals of this species demonstrate a great deal of plasticity in response to their edaphic and biotic environment, and seed production varies greatly according to these factors. Average seed production varies between 3000 and 20,000 seeds/plant Korsmo et al. (1981), but as many as 50,000–70,000 seeds per plant have been found Mandal and Pal (1990). Seeds are able to remain viable for extended periods in the soil seed bank, perhaps for up to 40 years Toole and Brown (1946). The seeds exhibit considerable polymorphy; some are smooth, some striate, and others possess a raised reticulum. Testa colour also varies significantly and can be black and shiny, brown or brownish-green. All of these variations in colour and form may be found in the seeds of a single plant (Holm et al., 1977). It appears that different seed morphs vary in their dormancy and germination requirements. This variation enables the species to germinate under a range of environmental conditions and may contribute greatly to its success as a weed (Maurya and Ambasht, 1973). C. album is autogamous but also wind pollinated, and flowers are occasionally visited by insects (Blackwell and Powell, 1981). C. album has no specialized seed dispersal mechanisms, so that the majority of seeds simply fall to the ground around the parent plant. They are not buoyant, but may be transported long distances by water. A percentage of seed also passes unharmed through animals and may be transported in this way (Holm et al., 1977).

Typically, freshly harvested seeds exhibit approximately 35% germinability. Low-temperature treatments of between 0°C and 5°C increase germination, as do alternating low and high temperatures, scarification and prolonged soaking over 20 days. Germination is slow for seeds following dry, indoor storage, but rapid for seeds overwintered in the field. In general, germination optima for this species are at 10°C in India, and 25°C in Canada, reflecting the fact that in temperate countries C. album usually behaves as a summer annual and in subtropical countries as a winter annual. Two distinct germination peaks have been recorded in Europe, one between March and May and a second between August and October (Fryer and Makepeace, 1977). In colder climates maximum seedling emergence has been observed between May and July with a peak in the last two weeks of June (Lapointe et al., 1985). The maximum depth from which buried seed is able to emerge is 5 cm (Korsmo et al., 1981), and percentage germination is greatest from seeds lying at, or just below the soil surface.

C. album will flower in any daylength, but an 8-hour photoperiod considerably hastens flowering and maturity. Larger, more vigorous plants result from a long photoperiod (16–18 hours), and for this reason the species is more extensively distributed in temperate zones and sparsely distributed around the equator (Holm et al., 1977). The detailed review by Bassett and Crompton (1978) provides some further information.

C. album occurs from sea level to altitudes of 3600 m, and from latitudes 70°N to more than 50°S. It is a common weed of almost all cultivated crops and found on wasteland, in pastures and strips of uncultivated land, and along roadsides and riverbanks. It is tolerant of a wide range of cultural conditions, climates, soil types, fertility and pH. Growing in temperatures of 5–30°C it is frost tolerant. It is most vigorous in fertile, heavy and well-irrigated soils (reaching up to 2 m in height), often remaining as a dwarf in dryer and less fertile soils.

The size, vigour and reproductive capacity of individual plants is affected by intraspecific competition, but less so by competition from wheat (Williams, 1964; Koblihova et al., 1987). Seed production potential, therefore, varies greatly according to the density of weed populations, and agronomic practices which result in a thick canopy cover will lead to less seed return to the seed bank, as increased density results in shorter plants, fewer inflorescences and reduced seed production. 

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Alternaria alternata Pathogen
Ascochyta betae Pathogen Netherlands
Ascochyta hyalospora Pathogen
Passalora dubia Pathogen
Pleospora calvescens Pathogen

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page A downy mildew caused by Peronospora sp. has been reported as an important disease of the grain cereal, Chenopodium quinoa, which is cultivated in Peru. The same disease has been observed on the weedy species C. album, C. murale and C. ambrosioides (Aragon and Guttierez, 1992).

Meloidogyne hapla (a root nematode) was reported on roots of C. album occurring in Kiwi plantations in Basilicata (Ciancio et al., 1992). Heterodera spp., a genus of cyst nematodes, also infect C. album (Bendixen and Rao, 1981).

Some further organisms are listed by Bassett and Crompton (1978).


Top of page Introduction

C. album is responsible for important economic losses in agriculture around the world. Except in the extreme desert climate, C. album is found in all inhabited areas of the world where it thrives on all soil types and over a wide range of pH values (Holm et al., 1977). A survey conducted in Canada in 1991 showed that weeds caused estimated average annual losses of $984 million (Swanton et al., 1993). In the USA, a similar survey conducted on 46 crops showed average annual losses of $4.1 billion with current control strategies and $19.6 billion if herbicides were not available (Bridges and Anderson, 1992). Among the weeds implicated with those losses, C. album has been classified as one of the world's worst (Holm et al., 1977; Mitich, 1988). Its worldwide distribution, its ability to colonise new habitats and produce large quantities of seeds with viability extended over several years, its allelopathic potential, as well as the evolution of herbicide resistant biotypes have made C. album a major weed problem in agriculture (Holm et al., 1977; Mitich, 1988; Holt and Lebaron, 1990).

Direct Crop Losses

C. album reduces crop yield by direct competition for light and nutrients. In field and greenhouse experiments, important losses due to C. album have been reported on many crops including maize, soyabeans, tomato, oat, barley, lucerne, and sugarbeet. At the density of 172 to 300 plants/m², C. album was reported to cause between 6 and 58% yield loss in maize in field experiments in Canada (Sibuga and Bandeen, 1980; Ngouajio et al., 1999). In Spain, Torner et al. (1995) reported 22.3% maize yield loss in irrigated field experiments when maize was allowed to compete with C. album at equivalent densities. In the USA, 59% maize yield losses were attributed to uncontrolled populations of C. album in field experiments (Dyck and Liebman, 1995). At a density of 1.6 C. album plants/m of soyabean row, Shurtleff and Coble (1985) observed 15% loss of soyabean seed yield in North Carolina, USA. In Iowa, USA, Staniforth and Lovely (1964) observed about 35% soyabean yield losses due to a natural weed population composed mainly of C. album. In tomato, field experiments conducted in the USA using 64 C. album plants/m of row showed 36% losses of marketable fruits (Bhowmik and Reddy, 1988). In oats, C. album interference in field experiments conducted in Canada caused about 60% losses of grain yield when the weed was allowed to compete with the crop for the entire growing season (Lapointe et al., 1985). Losses of 23-36% of barley yield were attributed to C. album competition in the USA (Conn and Thomas, 1987). Under greenhouse conditions in Canada, about 23% reduction of lucerne biomass yield was recorded by Lapointe et al. (1985) as a direct result of C. album competition.

In field studies conducted in Colorado, USA, sugarbeet root yield was reduced by 48% when competing with ca one C. album plant/m of row (Schweizer, 1983). When sugarbeet was grown with 13 C. album plants/m of row that emerged 10 days after the crop, root yield was reduced by 72% in Japan (Watanabe and Hirokawa, 1975). In contrast, when 22 C. album plants/m² were allowed to emerge simultaneously with sugarbeet in Wageningen, The Netherlands, yield losses as high as 93% were obtained (Kropff and Spitters, 1991; Kropff et al., 1992). When grown with a high density of 170 C. album plants/m², sugarbeet root yield was reduced by 86% (Holm et al., 1977). While yield losses due to C. album vary according to crop, weed density and location, in all cases reported, the crop losses were of significant economic impact.

Crop seed contamination by weed seeds not only contributes to weed propagation, but also causes important losses in crop seed quality and value. C. album seeds are very small and frequently contaminate crop seeds harvested from weed infested fields (Holm et al., 1977). For example, C. album seeds are frequently found as impurities in many cereal seeds. Williams (1963) reported a carrot contamination rate of one-third at an official seed testing station in the UK. In the USA, contamination of legume seed by C. album has also been reported (Isely, 1960).

While allelopathic effects of crop plants or crop residues on weeds are beneficial to farmers, the reverse may cause important economic losses. C. album has been reported to exhibit allelopathic effects on crop plants including maize, soyabeans, carrots, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, sunflowers, lettuce, squash (Cucurbita maxima) and oats (Bhowmik, 1982; Reinhardt et al. 1994). In the USA, C. album residues were reported to cause 15-30% reduction of maize and soyabean growth under field conditions (Bhowmik and Doll, 1980) and 16-20% soyabean yield losses under glasshouse conditions (Bhowmik, 1982). In laboratory and greenhouse studies conducted in South Africa, Reinhardt et al. (1994) reported 68, 85, 47 and 51% growth inhibition by C. album residues on cucumbers, onions, tomatoes and sunflowers, respectively.

The loss of herbicide activity as a result of evolution of resistance among weed populations has become a major concern in agricultural communities over the last three decades (Holt and Lebaron, 1990; Holt, 1992). C. album has been selected for resistance to several herbicides including triazines, substituted ureas, bromoxynil and pyrazon (Solymosi et al., 1986; Vencill and Foy, 1988; De Prado et al., 1989; Hagood, 1989; Holt and Lebaron, 1990; Myers and Harvey, 1993; Glenn et al., 1997). Herbicide-resistant biotypes of C. album have been reported in many countries including Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Italy, France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, the UK and the USA (Heap, 2000). C. album resistance to herbicides has an important economic impact on agricultural production. Resistant biotypes cause direct losses from competition, especially in no-till production systems. Their control requires the use of alternative herbicides or integrated management systems that include herbicide combinations as well as non-chemical methods (Hagood, 1989; Holt and Lebaron, 1990; Holt, 1992; Myers and Harvey, 1993; Glenn et al., 1997). The additional cost of controlling resistant weed biotypes may increase total farm inputs.

Indirect Crop Losses

As an alternate host of several economically important pests and diseases, C. album is responsible for important indirect losses in agriculture. C. album was reported to be the host of a new plant disease caused by the fungus Stagonospora atriplicis in New Zealand (McKenzie and Dingley, 1996). In Japan, C. album was reported to be a host for Polymyxa betae (Abe and Ui, 1986). This fungus is a vector of rhizomania of sugarbeet caused by beet necrotic yellow vein virus (BNYVV) (Abe and Tamada, 1986). P. betae isolated from C. album was also reported to thrive on other plant species including spinach (Spinacia oleracea) (Abe and Ui, 1986). C. album is also the alternate host of several crop viruses. In the UK, Stevens et al. (1994) showed that C. album was susceptible to beet yellows virus (BYV). This disease, transmitted primarily by the aphid Myzus persicae, is responsible for up to 47% sugarbeet losses (Smith and Hallsworth, 1990). In the USA, C. album was reported to be a successful host of peanut stunt cucumovirus (Gillaspie and Ghabrial, 1998). In India, Sharma et al. (1998) showed that prunus necrotic ring spot virus (PNRSV) was transmitted to C. album, which was also shown to be susceptible to potato viruses M and S (Ksiazek, 1976).

In Quebec, Canada, Bélair and Benoit (1996) reported C. album as an alternate host for the northern root-knot nematode Meloidogyne halpa. This nematode is a major constraint to carrot production in southwestern Quebec. The potato root-knot nematode, Ditylenchus destructor, was shown to infest C. album in South Africa, and thereby survive between crop seasons (De Waele et al., 1990). In South Africa, this nematode is also an important pest of groundnut. In Utah, USA, the insect Pemphigus betae (Homoptera: Aphididae) was shown to have a life cycle that alternates between cottonwood trees (Populus angustifolia) and the roots of C. album (Moran and Whitham, 1988). The beet leafhopper and the common stalkborer are insects that live on C. album, but spread to sugarbeet, tomatoes, corn and certain flowers (Wright, 1972; Mitich, 1988).

Mammalian Losses

C. album is toxic to humans and animals. It produces pollen that causes hay fever (Wodehouse, 1971). C. album produces high concentrations of nitrate and oxalic acid, which are poisonous to many animals including swine and sheep when eaten in large quantities (Kingsbury, 1964; Schmutz et al., 1968; Everist, 1979). When eaten by dairy cows, C. album causes taint in milk (Mitich, 1988). Between 1951 and 1960 the estimated losses of beef cattle due to poisonous plants in 11 western states of the USA were over $17 million (Schmutz et al., 1968). According to the same source, losses of sheep and wool were estimated at nearly $6 million. In 1988, estimated losses of cattle and sheep in 17 western states of the USA were $145,330,080 and $23,779,350 respectively (Nielsen et al., 1988; Frandsen and Boe, 1991); C. album is one of the major species associated with those losses (Lorenz and Dewey, 1988).


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A number of uses have been reported for C. album. The leaves and tender branches may be used as a vegetable in many parts of the world, and also in India in the production of a curd, known locally as Raita (Maheshwari, 1963). Young shoots are boiled and eaten often with other vegetables. They are often dried and stored for later use (Jansen, 2004). It may also be used as a fodder for livestock.

According to Partap and Kapoor (1985), Himalayan chenopod grain consumption is associated with altitude, low family income and social conservatism. In the Himalayas, where it is grown as a subsistence pseudocereal, seeds are ground into flour for pancakes and bread, and may be boiled for gruel. Porridge is also made using roasted and ground grain. In the past, the seeds of Chenopodium album were harvested all over Europe, to be dried and ground into flour for making bread, cakes and gruel. In parts of the Americas they are still used for that purpose (Hatfield, 1971). Fermented alcoholic drinks are also brewed (Jansen, 2004). Usage depends on cultivar type. Farmers may thin grain crops and use the thinnings at a leafy vegetable. Grain are also used as a poultry and livestock feed. Waste husks were used for washing clothes in the past (Partap et al., 1998).

Various medicinal uses have been reported. The leaves may be taken in the form of an infusion or decoction as a laxative and anthelminthic. It has also been recommended by Hindu physicians as a treatment for hepatic disorders and splenic enlargement (Chopra et al., 1958). The finely powdered leaf is used by Zulus as a dusting powder to allay irritation about the external genitalia of children (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962). Seeds are used traditionally to improve the appetite and as an anthelmintic, laxative, aphrodisiac and a tonic. They have also been used to treat biliousness, stomach pains, eye and throat problems, piles, and diseases of blood, heart and spleen (Jansen, 2004). Pharmacological studies have demonstrated that C. album is a good candidate for the development of treatments for muscular spasms and pain (Poonia and Upadhayay, 2015). Methanolic and aqueous leaf extracts of C. album demonstrated antilithiatic effects on experimentally induced urolithiasis in rats compared to a standard antilithiatic agent, cystone (Sikarwar et al., 2017). Tests showed C. album had significant anthelmintic activity against cyathostomins, an important gastrointestinal nematode infecting equids. Their effective control is being compromised by widespread resistance to broad spectrum anthelmintics licenced for use in equids. Thus, C. album has considerable potential as an anthelmintic forage or feed supplement (Peachey et al., 2015). 

Research on the medicinal uses and nutritional composition of C. album is comprehensively reviewed by Poonia and Upadhayay (2015).


Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed


  • Host of pest

Human food and beverage

  • Cereal
  • Flour/starch
  • Vegetable


  • Poisonous to mammals

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page A number of other Chenopodium species occur as weeds, including Chenopodium murale (see separate datasheet), which has somewhat broader leaves with a distinctly wedge-shaped leaf base, seeds sharply keeled and a higher seed weight than C. album (Sen, 1981). C. murale is also a common weed which grows abundantly in irrrigated, cultivated fields, gardens and waste ground. Also C. opulifolium, a very widespread species, sometimes commoner than C. album as in East Africa, which differs in having leaves about as broad as long and branches often diverging at a wider angle from the stem. Ivens (1968) has a useful table showing the differences between Chenopodium species occurring in East Africa.

Prevention and Control

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Cultural Control

In India, emergence and establishment of C. album is favoured by sowing in early compared to late November (North-West Asia, particularly India and Pakistan). Populations of this weed can be reduced by effective integrated management involving competitive crop varieties, crop rotation, cross-row sowing, nutrient management and cropping date. Competitive crop varieties can suppress growth of the weed by establishing early canopy cover. In crops such as wheat and barley narrow row spacing, cross row sowing and higher seed rates can further suppress the growth of individuals (Johri et al., 1992).

In areas where the population density of C. album is very high, the stale seed bed technique can be used to encourage weed emergence prior to crop sowing so depleting the soil seed reservoir. Crop rotation and nutrient management can be effectively integrated with other cultural practices for the management of this weed in wheat (Balyan et al., 1988; Bhagawati et al., 1989).

C. album has also been found to be sensitive to flaming (Vanhala, 1996), whilst manual weeding and earthing-up are effective in potato (Jaiswal, 1994). Manual weeding at 25, 40, 55 and 70 days after sowing significantly reduced total weed dry weight and increased wheat yield in trials conducted in Madhya Pradesh, India (Singh and Bajpai, 1992). The major goal of any sustainable cultural control programme should be to prevent the consistent enrichment of the soil seed bank.

Biological Control

Ascochyta caulina, a myco-herbicide, has been used for control of C. album (Horsten and Kempenaar, 1994; Kempenaar, 1995). C. album has been identified among targets for future research into the potential for biological control (Schroeder et al., 1993).

Chemical Control

C. album is sensitive to a range of foliage-applied herbicides, including 2,4-D, MCPA, paraquat, bentazone, dichlofop, isoproturon, metoxuron, methabenzthiazuron, sulfosulfuron, metsulfuron-methyl, chlorotoluron, bromoxynil and dicamba. Lorenzi (1984) and Mamarot and Rodriguez (1997) provide suggestions for use of herbicides and herbicide mixtures in a wide range of crops in Brazil and France respectively. Lorenzi indicates resistance to asulam and only moderate susceptibility to acifluorfen, butachlor and metolachlor in Brazil.

Isoproturon alone, isoproturon + dicamba or 2,4-D + isoproturon + surfactant provided the maximum control of C. album in wheat (Malik et al., 1992). C. album control in soybean (Glycine max) was greater with thifensulfuron (Monks et al., 1993). Tank mixtures of bentazone and imazethapyr controlled both redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) and C. album in Phaseolus vulgaris.

Biotypes of this weed, resistant to atrazine, chloridazon and pyridate have been reported (Solymosi and Lehoczki, 1989; Parks et al., 1995). Atrazine-resistant biotypes have been a particular problem in maize, but a combination of reduced herbicide application rates and mechanical cultivation have provided effective alternative control strategies for both triazine-resistant and susceptible C. album biotypes (Parks et al., 1995).



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