IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

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Description

This introduced or adventive annual plant has a variable size, ranging from 1-6' tall. Large plants branch frequently and are wider at the base. Young stems are pubescent, but older stems near the base are usually glabrous. The alternate leaves are up to 2½" long and ¼" across. They are linear, narrowly lanceolate, or narrowly oblanceolate, and sessile against the stems. Their margins are smooth and ciliate. Clusters of 2-6 flowers develop near the axils of the leaves in young stems. These clusters of flowers slowly lengthen to become short hairy spikes about ½–2" long. These spikes have leafy bracts that are about ½" long and linear in shape. The silky hairs of the spikes can be as long as the bracts. Each flower is about 1/5" across, consisting of a divided style, 5 stamens with large yellow anthers, 5 green sepals, and no petals. Each sepal is shaped like a blunt triangle and becomes winged along its outer surface as the flower matures into a fruit. The flowers are greenish yellow in overall appearance – were it not for their abundance along the stems, they would be rather inconspicuous. The blooming period occurs from mid-summer to early fall and lasts about 1-2 months. Each flower is replaced by a somewhat flattened capsule that contains a single seed. This capsule is enclosed by the sepals until it is ready to release the seed. The flattened seed is well-rounded on one end and tapers to a point on the other, resembling a teardrop. It is more or less brown and has a rough surface. During the fall or winter, Kochia often breaks off at the base of the central stem and becomes a tumbleweed that is driven about by the wind, in this manner distributing its seeds. The root system consists of a taproot. This plant spreads by reseeding itself, and sometimes forms colonies. Cultivation

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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