IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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This native plant is a summer annual about ½–2½' tall and ½–3' across. Large specimens branch frequently and have a bushy appearance; they are broader toward the bottom than the top. Small specimens are more sparsely branched and have a scraggly appearance. The stems are whitish green to white and round or slightly furrowed. The alternate leaves are up to 1" long and ¼" across; rarely are they larger than this. Both the stems and the leaves are hairless, or nearly so. The side branches often develop at right angles (90°) from the central stem. Each leaf is light green, oblanceolate, and smooth or slightly undulate along the margins. Sometimes the leaves have yellowish or reddish tints. From the axil of each leaf, there develops a small cluster of inconspicuous flowers. Each flower is surrounded by 3 lanceolate bracts about 1/8" in length; each bract has an elongated tip that is stiff. Because White Amaranth is monoecious, there are pistillate (female) and staminate (male) flowers. Regardless of its gender, each flower has 3 green sepals that are lanceolate and no petals. Each pistillate flower has an ovary with 3 styles, while each staminate flower has 3 stamens. The blooming period occurs from mid-summer to early fall and lasts about 2 months. The flowers are wind-pollinated. Each pistillate flower develops a single seed that is surrounded by a wrinkled membrane (utricle). This membrane splits open around the middle to release the seed. Each small round seed is dark reddish brown to black, shiny, and somewhat flattened. The root system consists of a taproot. During the winter, this plant can break off at the base and roll around in the wind, thereby distributing the seeds. Occasionally, it forms colonies.


Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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