Chenopodium berlandieri (Pitseed Goosefoot)
|Also known as:||Berlandier's Goosefoot, Pigweed|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; disturbed soil; roadsides, railroads, waste places, cliffs, river banks, open woods,|
|Bloom season:||July - October|
|Plant height:||4 to 40 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Tiny flowers are tightly packed in small round clusters (glomerules) in spike-like and branching arrangements at the top of the stem, at the tips of branching stems, and arising from upper leaf axils, with the glomerules usually crowded on the branch. Within a glomerule, flowers may be at different stages of development, some just budding and others with maturing fruit.
Flowers lack petals, have 5 stamens and a round, green ovary with a 2-parted style at the tip that is not divided all the way to the base. Cupping the flower is a green calyx with 5 lobes .5 to 1.5 mm long, triangular to egg-shaped, strongly keeled, blunt to rounded at the tip, thin and papery around the edges. Bracts are leaf-like or sometimes absent. The calyx, stalks and branches are moderately to densely white-mealy.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are alternate, ½ to 6 inches long, up to 3½ inches wide, variable in shape, diamond-shaped to triangular to egg-shaped to lance-elliptic in outline, pointed to blunt at the tip, wedge-shaped to straight across at the base, tapering to a stalk up to 3½ inches long. Lower leaves are largest, irregularly toothed, 1½ to 2+ times as long as wide, usually with a pair of shallow lobes near the base. Leaves become smaller and less toothy as they ascend the stem with the uppermost leaves often much narrower, proportionately longer, and toothless.
Surfaces are green, hairless, moderately to densely white-mealy especially when young, the upper surface usually becoming smooth, the lower surface usually remaining white-mealy. Stems are erect to ascending, unbranched to much branched, sparsely to densely white-mealy especially on the upper stem, and green to purple striped to red.
Fruit is a dry seed enclosed in the persistent ovary shell (pericarp) that has a pitted texture and matures from green to mottled brown to blackish and is tightly adhered to the seed, not easily separated from it except around the style. Fruit in the glomerule is all arranged horizontally and the calyx lobes either close around the fruit, concealing it, or are spreading, exposing it. Seeds are flattened round to egg-shaped, 1 to 2 mm long, shiny black, the surface pitted in a honeycomb pattern.
Pitseed Goosefoot is a native annual found in disturbed soils, much like the related weed Lamb's-quarters (Chenopodium album), and is frequently mistaken for it since they share many characteristics such as leaf shape. The two are also known to hybridize. While this may add some complexity to separating the two species out, true forms of C. berlandieri can best be distinguished by the mature fruit: the pericarp and seed are both pitted on the surface where C. album is smooth, though magnification is required to see this, and the pericarp does not easily separate from the seed. C. berlandieri also tends to have a lower, more spreading (nearly as wide as tall) and sometimes candelabra-like growth form, larger leaves frequently have a pair of shallow lobes near the base, leaf bases are sometimes straight across, and the style is not always divided all the way to the base. However, these traits are all variable so check the fruit for a definitive ID.
There are 6 recognized varieties of C. berlandieri, distinguished by seed size, whether the style base is yellow, whether leaves are lobed, and whether there are floral bracts. Two of these vars are known to be in Minnesota: var. zschackei, the most common var, has a yellow style base, leaves with basal lobes, erect clusters with leaf-like bracts, and seeds 1 to 1.5 mm long; var. bushianum has seeds 1.7 to 2 mm long, typically large, drooping clusters with leaf-like bracts, and the leaves lack basal lobes. Of note is that some references indicate the yellow area of var. zschackei styles pertains to the pericarp rather than the style itself (or perhaps applies to both). Since the seed in our images are about 1 mm diameter we assume they are var. zschackei, but we didn't observe the yellowing ourselves so we'll have to investigate that characteristic further.
Woodland Goosefoot (Chenopodium standleyanum), also a native, is a more delicate, spindly woodland species usually with few-flowered panicles that are smooth to only sparsely white-mealy, the glomerules usually distinctly separated on a branch, leaves have few or no teeth, fruit is smooth and the pericarp is easily separated from the seed. Due to the similarities with the ubiquitous Lamb's-quarters, we believe both these native species are overlooked and under-reported in the state.
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- Pitseed Goosefoot plant
- Pitseed Goosefoot plant
- Pitseed Goosefoot in a rock outcrop
- cultivated Pitseed Goosefoot
- cultivated Pitseed Goosefoot
- young plant in mid spring
- leaf scan
- comparison of Chenopodium album and C. berlandieri pericarps
- comparison of Chenopodium album and C. berlandieri seeds
Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Clay, Ramsey and Yellow Medicine counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?