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Kochia scoparia

Description from Flora of China

Chenopodium scoparium Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 221. 1753.

Herbs annual, 50-100 cm tall. Root fusiform. Stem erect, terete, light green or reddish purple, ribbed, slightly pubescent or subglabrous below; branches sparse, oblique. Leaves lanceolate or linear-lanceolate, complanate, 2-5 cm × 3-7 mm, usually with 3 distinct main veins, glabrous or slightly hairy, base attenuate into petiole, margin sparsely ferruginous ciliate, apex shortly acuminate; upper leaves sessile, smaller, 1-veined. Flowers bisexual or female, usually 1-3 per glomerule in axils of upper leaves and forming sparse, spikelike panicles; rachis beneath flowers sometimes ferruginous pilose. Perianth light green, subglobose; segments subtriangular, glabrous or apex slightly hairy, rarely wholly pubescent; winglike appendages triangular to obovate, sometimes subflabellate, membranous, obscurely veined, margin repand or incised. Filaments filiform. Style very short; stigmas 2, usually brownish purple. Utricle depressed globose; pericarp membranous, free from seed. Seed black-brown, sublustrous, ovoid, 1.5-2 mm; perisperm coherent. Fl. Jun-Sep, fr. Jul-Oct.

Kochia scoparia is an extremely variable species. Several forms, varieties, and subspecies have been described. Of these taxa, the most widespread in China is probably var. (or subsp.) scoparia, whereas plants with lower branches arcuate, axis of inflorescence distinctly pubescent, and flowers surrounded by a dense tuft of long hairs exceeding the perianth segments have been called var. subvillosa Moquin-Tandon (in Candolle, Prodr. 13(2): 131. 1849). The nomenclature of this latter variety is extremely confused; in particular, it has been called K. densiflora Turczaninow ex B. D. Jackson (K. scoparia subsp. densiflora (Turczaninow ex B. D. Jackson) M. Velayos & S. Cirujano; K. scoparia var. albovillosa Kitagawa), and the names K. sieversiana (Pallas) C. A. Meyer and K. scoparia var. sieversiana (Pallas) Ulbrich ex Ascherson & Graebner have been misapplied to this entity.

This species also has a horticultural form, f. trichophylla (A. Voss) Stapf ex Schinz & Thellung, which is characterized by plants appearing ovoid or obovoid (“cypresslike”), with crowded branches, and leaves narrower. It is cultivated in the countryside for brooms. In late autumn, the branches and leaves become red or orange and can be used ornamentally.

The young plants are eaten as a vegetable, and the utricles are used medicinally.

Valleys, river banks, beaches, wastelands, field margins, roadsides; also cultivated. Throughout China [Asia, Europe; widely naturalized in Africa, Australia, and North and South America].


 

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