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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.
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.
Medicinal UsesAntibacterial; 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 UsesThe 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.
Kochia field in Japan. Image by shinkusano
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