Description from Flora of China
Herbs annual, subshrubs, or shrubs, rarely perennial herbs or small trees. Stems and branches sometimes jointed (articulate); indumentum of vesicular hairs (furfuraceous or farinose), ramified (dendroid), stellate, rarely of glandular hairs, or plants glabrous. Leaves alternate or opposite, exstipulate, petiolate or sessile; leaf blade flattened, terete, semiterete, or in some species reduced to scales. Flowers monochlamydeous, bisexual or unisexual (plants monoecious or dioecious, rarely polygamous); bracteate or ebracteate. Bractlets (if present) 1 or 2, lanceolate, navicular, or scale-like. Perianth membranous, herbaceous, or succulent, (1-)3-5-parted; segments imbricate, rarely in 2 series, often enlarged and hardened in fruit, or with winged, acicular, or tuberculate appendages abaxially, seldom unmodified (in tribe Atripliceae female flowers without or with poorly developed perianth borne between 2 specialized bracts or at base of a bract). Stamens shorter than or equaling perianth segments and arranged opposite them; filaments subulate or linear, united at base and usually forming a hypogynous disk, sometimes with interstaminal lobes; anthers dorsifixed, incumbent in bud, 2-locular, extrorse, or dehiscent by lateral, longitudinal slits, obtuse or appendaged at apex. Ovary superior, ovoid or globose, of 2-5 carpels, unilocular; ovule 1, campylotropous; style terminal, usually short, with 2(-5) filiform or subulate stigmas, rarely capitate, papillose, or hairy on one side or throughout. Fruit a utricle, rarely a pyxidium (dehiscent capsule); pericarp membranous, leathery, or fleshy, adnate or appressed to seed. Seed horizontal, vertical, or oblique, compressed globose, lenticular, reniform, or obliquely ovoid; testa crustaceous, leathery, membranous, or succulent; embryo annular, semi-annular, or spiral, with narrow cotyledons; endosperm much reduced or absent; perisperm abundant or absent.
Many species of Chenopodiaceae are adapted to, and are major components of, arid or ruderal environments. They are often intimately involved with the daily life of people. For example, Beta vulgaris is one of the most important sources for sugar; Chenopodium quinoa is a new high-protein crop; Spinacia oleracea and Beta vulgaris are excellent vegetables; Dysphania ambrosioides and Salsola collina are used medicinally; seeds of Agriophyllum squarrosum are called “sand-rice” locally and are edible; seeds of Corispermum declinatum are used for making gin; the ash of Halogeton arachnoideus and some species of Salsola contains soda which is used in noodle-making; and Anabasis aphylla can be used as an insecticide. Many species are important as animal forage in desert, semidesert, and steppe regions, and some species make good windbreaks and soil binders. Haloxylon ammodendron has been used extensively in biological reconditioning of the desert.
Probably about 100 genera and 1400 species (depending on taxonomic opinions): mainly in arid areas, deserts, and coastal and saline habitats of N and S Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America; 42 genera (two endemic, two introduced) and 190 species (21 endemic, six introduced) in China.
(Authors: Zhu Gelin (朱格麟 Chu Ge-ling) ; Sergei L. Mosyakin , Steven E. Clemants)
Kung Hsien-wu, Chu Ge-lin, C. P. Tsien Cho-po, Ma Cheng-gung & Li An-jen. 1979. Chenopodiaceae. In: Kung Hsien-wu & C. P. Tsien Cho-po, eds., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 25(2): 1–194.