Chenopodium album (fat hen, pigweed, mealweed, goosefoot, bacon-weed, wild spinach, mutton tops, dirtweed, dirty dick, frost blite)

semi-evergreen or deciduous vine or shrub

place of origin:

urban habitat: commonly found in vacant lots, neglected cultivated landscapes, pavement openings, rubble dumps, highway banks and medians, along roadsides, fences, railroads; can thrive in compacted soils with rich nitrogen content; remains green after other plants have turned brown from frost or drought; thrives in full sun.

ecological function: disturbance-adapted colonizer; useful for phytoremediation to absorb heavy metals in soil; food and habitat for wildlife.

history: The precise origin of Chenopodium albumis obscure although it is currently found throughout North America including Greenland, and in Africa, Asia, and Australia. In Europe the seeds were boiled to make gruel in times of famine. Its young shoots are edible and are cultivated in India as a food crop. Its cooked leaves are used like spinach, although eaten in large quantities can cause nervous system problems and gastric pain. The plant was used extensively by various Native American tribes, consumed as a vegetable and spice and used medicinally to treat painful limbs, diarrhea, burns, stomachache, snake bite, skin problems, and scurvy. Its leaves were cooked with beans to reduce intestinal gas. The plant has also found to be useful for treating rheumatism, urinary problems, bug bites, and sunburn. A green dye can be obtained from its young shoots and its crushed roots used as a mild soap substitute.