The distribution of Amaranthus powellii is probably underestimated both in North America and the Old World, and literature references are somewhat confusing, because Amaranthus powellii has been commonly confused with Amaranthus hybridus[
Amaranthus chlorostachys powellii (S.Watson) Priszter
Amaranthus chlorostachys pseudoretroflex Thell.
Amaranthus hybridus pseudoretroflexus (Thell.) Thell.
Amaranthus retroflexus powellii (S.Watson) B.Boivin
Amaranthus retroflexus pseudoretroflexus (Thell.) B.Boivin
Common Name: Powell's Amaranth
Amaranthus powellii is a vigorous annual plant with an erect stem that can be branched (mainly in the inflorescence) or almost unbranched; it can grow 30 - 150cm tall, occasionally to 200cm[
The edible leaves and seeds are sometimes gathered from the wild and used locally.
Amaranthus powellii is originally native to southwestern United States and adjacent regions of Mexico; now, it is widely naturalized almost everywhere in temperate regions of North America and probably other regions of the world, though literature references are somewhat confusing, because it has been commonly confused with Amaranthus hybridus[
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.
N. America - originally native to the southwest, now found from British Colombia to Quebec, south to California, northern Mexico and Florida.
]. Disturbed habitats, agricultural fields, railroads, roadsides, waste areas, banks of rivers, lakes, and streams; at elevations from sea level to 2,500 metres[
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Prefers a well-drained fertile soil in a sunny position[
]. Requires a hot sheltered position if it is to do well[
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[
Leaves - cooked as a spinach[
Seed - cooked[
]. Used as a flour[
]. Very small but 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[
Yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant[
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[