Amaranthus anardana Buch.-Ham. ex Moq.
Amaranthus atrosanguineus Moq.
Amaranthus aureus Besser
Amaranthus bernhardii Moq.
Amaranthus flavus L.
Amaranthus frumentaceus Buch.-Ham. ex Roxb.
Amaranthus hybridus Vell.
Amaranthus leucocarpus S.Watson
Amaranthus leucospermus S.Watson
Amaranthus macrostachyus Mérat ex Moq.
Amaranthus monstrosus Moq.
Common Name: Prince's Feather
Flowers of a plant growing in The Botanical Gardens of Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Photograph by: Karelj
Amaranthus hypochondriacus is a vigorous, erect, annual plant growing 40 - 200cm tall, exceptionally to 250cm. The stem is usually branched, mainly in the inflorescence[
The plant is often cultivated, especially in the tropics, for its edible leaves and seeds. It is also sometimes grown as an ornamental in gardens[
No members of this genus are known to be poisonous, but when grown on nitrogen-rich soils they are known to concentrate nitrates in the leaves. This is especially noticeable on land where chemical fertilizers are used. Nitrates are implicated in stomach cancers, blue babies and some other health problems. It is inadvisable, therefore, to eat this plant if it is grown inorganically.
Southern N. America
A weed of wasteland and agricultural land.
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
Originally from the tropics, the plant has spread through cultivation and is now grown from the warm temperate zones to the tropics. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 19 - 23°c, but can tolerate 10 - 32°c[
]. It can be killed by temperatures of 4°c or lower[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 - 1,600mm, but tolerates 500 - 2,500mm[
Prefers a well-drained fertile soil in a sunny position[
]. Requires a hot sheltered position if it is to do well[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7, tolerating 5.5 - 7.5[
The leaves may be harvested within 30 - 50 days from sowing the seed[
]. If the plant is cut back and not uprooted, it may continue to supply leaves for a further 120 - 300 days[
When grown as a seed crop, yields usually range from 800 - 1,200 kg/ha but with the use of fertilizers the yield can be raised up to 3 t/ha[
This is the most robust and highest yielding of the grain amaranths, though it is late maturing and therefore less suitable for northern areas[
]. It is often cultivated, especially in tropical areas, for its edible leaves and seeds, there are many named varieties[
Plants are particularly susceptible to attacks by leaf-chewing insects[
Plants should not be given inorganic fertilizers, see notes above on toxicity.
Most if not all members of this genus photosynthesize by a more efficient method than most plants. Called the 'C4 carbon-fixation pathway', this process is particularly efficient at high temperatures, in bright sunlight and under dry conditions[
Young leaves - cooked as a spinach[
]. Rich in vitamins and minerals, they have a mild flavour[
Seed - raw or cooked. They can be used as a cereal substitute. They can also be popped in much the same way as popcorn[
]. The seed can be soaked for 12 hours in warm water and then allowed to sprout for about 11 days[
]. They can then be added to salads[
]. Very small but the seed is easy to harvest and very nutritious. The seed can be cooked whole, and becomes very gelatinous like this, but it is rather difficult to crush all of the small seeds in the mouth and thus some of the seed will pass right through the digestive system without being assimilated[
A red pigment obtained from the plant is used as a food colouring[
The whole plant contains tannin and is astringent[
]. It is used internally in the treatment of diarrhoea and excessive menstruation[
]. It can be used as a gargle to soothe inflammation of the pharynx and to hasten the healing of ulcerated mouths[
], whilst it can also be applied externally to treat vaginal discharges, nosebleeds and wounds[
]. The plant can be used fresh or it can also be harvested when coming into flower and dried for later use[
Yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant[
A red dye obtained from the plant (the report does not specify which part of the plant) is used as a colouring in foods and medicines[
Seed - sow late spring in situ. An earlier sowing can be made in a greenhouse and the plants put out after the last expected frosts. Germination is usually rapid and good if the soil is warm[
], but poor germination rates are experienced in cool or cold soils[
]. A drop in temperature overnight aids germination[
Cuttings of growing plants root easily[