Chenopodium capitatum (Strawberry Blite)

Plant Info
Also known as: Blite Goosefoot, Strawberry Spinach
Genus:Chenopodium
Family:Amaranthaceae (Amaranth)
Life cycle:annual
Origin:native
Status:
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist to dry disturbed soil; roadsides, gravel pits, waste areas, fields, open woods, thickets, clearings
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:8 to 40 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: indistinct Cluster type: round Cluster type: whorled

[photo of flower clusters] Numerous flowers are tightly packed in round clusters in uppermost leaf axils and whorled around the upper stem, the clusters up to about 3/8 inch diameter at peak bloom, with individual flowers blooming at the tip of the cluster first.

[close-up of flowers] Flowers lack petals but have 3 short stamens surrounding an oval, green ovary with a tiny, 2-parted style at the tip. The ovary soon turns brown. Cupping the flower is a green calyx with 3 lance-oblong lobes less than 1mm long.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are thin, alternate, 1 to 4 inches long and often nearly as wide, triangular to arrowhead-shaped, coarsely toothed and often a bit wavy around around the edges, pointed at the tip, and mostly straight across or wedge-shaped at the base. Lower leaves are long-stalked, the stalks becoming shorter and leaves more lance-shaped and less toothy as they ascend the stem. Stems are erect to ascending, ridged, hairless, and branched from the base.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] The persistent calyx expands and becomes fleshy and bright red with maturity, the lobes curving around the single, brown to blackish seed.

Notes:

Strawberry Blite is considered something of a weedy species, popping up in disturbed soils mostly unexpectedly, though it may not persist very long in any one spot thus it is not so easy to track down if you're specifically looking for it. We searched for some years at locations where it was previously recorded without success, then were able to cultivate it in the garden after a fan sent us seed from a plant that came up out of nowhere in her brother's garden (thanks, Margaret!). All parts are apparently edible, the leaves similar to spinach and the fruits with a mildly sweet flavor, but unfortunately, tasting nothing like a strawberry. There are 2 recognized varieties of C. capitatum: var. parvicapitatum, with smaller flower clusters and fruit that is not fleshy and only occasional red, found in the western US, and var. capitatum, as described above, found from Alaska across Canada, in the US as far south as New Jersey and introduced elsewhere.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in his garden from seed collected in Hubbard County.

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