Category: Amaranthaceae

  • Prince’s Feather (Amaranthus cruentus)

    Photographed September 11.

    The deep-purple forms of this plant are often grown in gardens, but they do not confine themselves to where we plant them. This one was growing out of a sidewalk in Beechview.

    If we have misidentified this species of Amaranthus, we may plead in extenuation that the taxonomy of the genus is confused, and in the USDA PLANTS database most of the other possibilities are reduced to forms of Amaranthus cruentus.

  • More Purple Amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus)

    These two pictures, from the same patch on the South Side as the ones that appeared here yesterday, seemed worth adding to the collection. The one above gives us a close view of the inflorescence (click to make it even bigger), which might help any botanical enthusiasts give us a better identification if indeed Father Pitt is wrong about this being Amaranthus hypochondriacus.

  • Purple Amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus)

    Photographed September 25.

    A large and vigorous patch of these amaranths was happily blooming from sidewalk cracks and other unlikely footholds around a little rowhouse on the South Side. Closely related species of Amaranthus are notoriously hard to distinguish, and botanists disagree on the classification; Gray regards Amaranthus hypochondriacus as a form of Amaranthus hybridus. Any reader who can do a better job of identifying these plants is encouraged to do so, even begged to do so. At any rate, it is a striking flower, closely related to the garden favorite Love-Lies-Bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus). As distinguishing features of this plant, note the numerous flower stalks from leaf axils up and down the stem, the long petioles (about the length of the leaves), and the thickish inflorescences with a habit of sagging.

  • Orach (Atriplex patula)

    A common and insignificant weed, but a member of an illustrious tribe of edible leafy vegetables, and a close relative of the garden Orach (A. hortensis). The species is variable, and so is the taxonomy; in Shafer’s Preliminary List of the Vascular Flora of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, both Atriplex hastata and A. patula are recorded; but Gray makes A. hastata a variety of A. patula, and places it chiefly in salt marshes. The family Chenopodiaceae is included by many modern botanists as a subfamily of Amaranthaceae; but the current Flora of North America at retains it as a separate family.

    Flowers. Insignificant; in greenish branching spikes, terminal and in upper leaf axils, interrupted by small leaves.

    Leaves. Narrowly hastate; that is, arrowhead-shaped, with lower lobes pointed outward or forward; mid-green above, more greyish below; on short slightly winged petioles; texture somewhat rubbery.

    Stem. Thin, angular; producing small branches in leaf axils; smooth; bright green.

    Gray describes the genus and the species:

    ÁTRIPLEX [Tourn.] L. ORACH. Flowers monoecious or dioecious; the staminate like the flowers of Chenopoidium, but sterile by the abortion of the pistil; the fertile consisting simply of a naked pistil inclosed between a pair of appressed foliaceous bracts, which are enlarged in fruit, and sometimes united. Seed vertical. Embryo coiled into a ring around the albumen. In one section, including the Garden Orach, there are some fertile flowers with a calyx, like the staminate, but without stamens, and with horizontal seeds. — Herbs (ours annuals), usually mealy or scurfy with bran-like scales and with spiked-clustered flowers; in summer and autumn. (The ancient Latin name, a corruption of the Greek, atraphaxis.)

    A. pátula L. Erect or prostrate (3-12 dm. high), glabrous or somewhat scurfy; leaves narrowly lanceolate-hastate (2-10 cm. long), the lower sometimes opposite, entire or sparingly sinuate-dentate, petioled, the upper lanceolate to linear; flowers clustered in rather slender spikes, the two kinds together or separate; fruiting bracts ovate-triangular or rhombic-hastate, entire or toothed,often muricate on the back, united to near the middle. —Nfd. to N.J., Mo., and B.C. (Eu.) Very variable; the marked extremes are: Var. hastàta (L) Gray. Erect or spreading, stout, at least the lower leaves broadly triangularhastate, often coarsely and irregularly toothed. — Nfd. to Va., Mo., and northwestw., chiefly in saline places and along the Great Lakes. (Eu.) Var. littoralis (L.) Gray. Slender; leaves linear-lanceolate to linear, rarely subhastate or toothed. — P. E. I. to N. J., and westw. along the Great Lakes.

  • Pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)


    It’s easy to dismiss as just another green weed, but Pigweed is a close cousin of the cultivated amaranths, of which various varieties are grown both for their seeds (from which a flour can be made) and their beauty. If its flowers were any other color, Pigweed might join the ranks of the ornamental amaranths. Here, against a backdrop of dark green English ivy by a sidewalk in Beechview, we can appreciate the elegant architecture of Pigweed, and pause to admire it before we go back to ignoring it as usual.

    Gray describes the genus and the species:

    Flowers 3-bracted. Calyx glabrous. Stamens 5, rarely 2 or 3, separate; anthers 2-celled. Stigmas 2 or 3. Fruit an ovoid 1-seeded utricle, 2-3-beaked at the apex, mostly longer than the calyx, opening transversely or sometimes bursting irregularly. Embryo coiled into a ring around the albumen. Coarse annual weeds, with alternate and entire petioled setosely tipped leaves, and small green or purplish flowers in axillary or terminal spiked clusters; in late summer and autumn. (Amarantos, unfading, because the dry calyx and bracts do not wither.)

    A. RETROFLEXUS L. (GREEN A., PIGWEED.) Roughish and more or less pubescent; leaves dull green, long-petioled, ovate or rhombic-ovate, undulate; the thick spikes crowded in a stiff glomerate panicle; bracts awn-pointed, rigid, exceeding the acute or obtuse sepals. Cultivated grounds, common; indigenous southwestw. (Adv. from Trop. Am.)