Australia > All Weeds > Kochia

Kochia

Bassia scoparia

Origin: Native of Europe and Asia.

Africa

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Image by Aspidoscelis

Alternative Name(s): Kochia scoparia

Family: Chenopodiaceae.

Known Hazards: Plants contain some saponins and should not be eaten in large quantities. Saponins are a toxin found in many of our daily foods such as many beans. They are usually present in quantities too small to be concerned about and are also very poorly absorbed by the body, tending to pass straight through without causing any problems. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

Habitat: Roadsides, ditches and wasteland.

Edibility Rating: 2 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 2 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Erect annual herb to 1.8 m high. Leaves lanceolate, 2–12 cm long, 0.5–12 mm wide with 1–5 conspicuous veins; margins entire, fringed with hairs. Fruit star-shaped containing a single seed. Seeds oval, 1–2 mm long, brown or black.
Flowers: Inconspicuous, 2.3–3 mm wide, green, in groups of 2 to 6 in leaf-like bracts, amongst tufts of hairs longer than the flowers. Flowers summer.The flowers are pollinated by Wind.

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by simple to much-branched stems that are often shortly hairy but may be hairless, often red with age; leaves alternate, narrow-lanceolate with upper surface hairless, lower surface usually with dense covering of appressed hairs; flowers on short dense spikes in axils of upper branches or at ends of branches; base of flower surrounded by 5-lobed calyx with horizontal wings that persist around globeshaped fruit.

Dispersal: Spread by seed, particularly by tumbling dead plants.



Edible Uses

Leaves; Seed. Young leaves - cooked. A delicious taste, they are used as a vegetable. A nutritional analysis is available. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Seed - dried and ground into a powder then mixed with cereals when making bread, biscuits etc. Very small and fiddly to use, it is also not a very reliable crop due to its late season of flowering. On a zero moisture basis, the seed contains 20.4 - 27.5% protein, 8.8 - 16% fat and 3.4 - 9.4% ash.

Medicinal Uses

Antibacterial; Antifungal; Antiphlogistic; Astringent; Cardiotonic; Diuretic; Skin. The leaves and fruits are cardiotonic and diuretic. The stems are used in the treatment of dysentery, diarrhoea and dyspepsia. The seed is antiphlogistic, astringent and diuretic. It is used to treat skin infections such as eczema ad scabies, and diseases of the urinary tract. The seed contains harmine, which can have adverse effects upon the gastro-intestinal tract and the central nervous system.

Other Uses

The whole plant is used as a broom.

Notes: Introduced to salt affected areas in WA in 1990/91 but spread rapidly to non salt affected areas and roadsides and was considered a threat to cropping. An eradication program began in 1992. Hardy salt tolerant species adapted to arid areas. Useful fodder but contains nitrates. If the plant contains more than 1.5% by dry matter of nitrate it may be toxic. Is an allelopath, i.e. produces substances that suppress plant growth.

References:


Kochia field in Japan. Image by shinkusano

 

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