Chenopodium pratericola (Desert Goosefoot)

Plant Info
Also known as: Narrow-leaved Goosefoot
Family:Amaranthaceae (Amaranth)
Life cycle:annual
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed sandy or rocky soil; prairies, dunes, woodland edges, forest clearings, gravel pits, outcrops, banks, shores
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:6 to 30 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: panicle Cluster type: spike

[photo of flower clusters] Tiny flowers are tightly packed in rounded 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. Within a glomerule, flowers may be at different stages of development, some just budding and others with maturing fruit.

[close-up of glomerules] Flowers lack petals, have 5 stamens and a round, green ovary with a 2-parted style at the tip. Cupping the flower is a green calyx with usually 5 lobes up to 1 mm long, occasionally 4 lobes. Bracts are leaf-like, linear and shorter than stem leaves. The calyx and stalks are moderately to densely white-mealy.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of lobed 3-veined leaves] Leaves are alternate, ½ to 2 inches long, up to about ½ inch wide, lance-shaped to oblong-elliptic to linear, pointed at the tip, mostly wedge-shaped at the base, tapering to a short stalk. Lower leaves are largest and at least some usually have a pair of small rounded lobes near the base, though lower leaves may wither away early. Upper leaves are more narrow and usually unlobed. Most leaves are distinctly 3-veined from the base (best seen on the underside), the lateral veins much shorter than the mid-vein. On smaller leaves the lateral veins may be faint or sometimes absent.

[photo of obscurely 3-veined upper leaf] Surfaces are hairless, the upper surface smooth or sparsely white-mealy with the underside moderately to densely white-mealy. Stems are erect, unbranched or branched above the base, green, moderately to densely white-mealy.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed_without_plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a dry seed enclosed in the persistent ovary shell (pericarp) that matures from green to dark brown and is not tightly adhered to the seed, easily removed from it.

[photo of seed] Seeds are flattened round, .9 to 1.3 mm long, shiny black, faintly wrinkled on the surface.


Desert Goosefoot is an annual found mostly in open, often saline or alkaline sandy or rocky soil. It is distinguished from other Chenopodium species by its narrow, toothless leaves that are densely white-mealy on the underside and usually 3-veined from the base, though the lateral veins may be obscure on smaller leaves or sometimes absent altogether, and at least some larger leaves commonly are broader with a pair of small lobes near the base. The flower and fruit clusters are also white-mealy and the calyx has 5 lobes, which are spreading when fruit is mature, and the pericarp is easily removed from the seeds, which are shiny black and faintly wrinkled or pitted. Stems are mostly erect, unbranched or branched above the base.

It is one of several Chenopodium species with narrow lance-elliptic to lance-linear leaves but the only one commonly found in Minnesota and mature fruit may be required to distinguish it from the others. Very similar are two Narrow-leaved Goosefoot species that have also been recorded in Minnesota, Chenopodium desiccatum and Chenopodium leptophyllum, but recent distribution maps put the native range of both species far to our west, not any closer than western South Dakota. C. desiccatum has only been recorded 3 times and does not seem to have persisted; the 17 C. leptophyllum records may be misidentified since the national distribution maps indicate it is not present here at all. Time will tell.

In comparison, C. desiccatum seed is said to have a warty texture, the calyx lobes are not spreading at maturity, none of the leaves have lobes at the base, and plants are typically spreading and branched from the base, sometimes erect; C. leptophyllum seed is tightly adhered to the pericarp, not easily removed, and leaves are all 1-veined and none lobed.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Sherburne County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken at various locations across Minnesota.


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