Common lambsquarters

Encyclopedia Article

Common lambsquarters                Chenopodium album L.

Family:   Amaranthaceae (formerly in Chenopodiaceae)
Life cycle:  Annual
Native status:  Introduced
Habitat:  Crop fields, gardens, disturbed areas

General description:  Erect plant with numerous branches reaching heights of 5 to 6 ft.  Triangular leaves with undulate to toothed leaf margins.  Leaves and stems covered with a grayish waxy layer.  Inconspicuous clusters of flowers produced on terminal and axillary panicles.

Key ID traits:  Alternate, triangular to lanceolate leaves with irregular teeth and grayish cast; young leaves coated with white, mealy coating.

Similar species:  Numerous Chenopodium species are found in Iowa, and several have similar characteristics as common lambsquarters (e.g. slimleaf lambsquarters).

Miscellaneous:  The mealy material on the surface of leaves is composed of balls of epicuticular wax.  It once was the predominant leafy vegetable in Europe, but was replaced by spinach when spinach was introduced from Asia in the 16th century.

common lambsquarter seedling
Common lambsquarter seedling. Cotyledons frequently are more linear than on this specimen.  


Triangular leaves and mealy material in terminal growth are key ID traits.

Flowers are produced in clusters on branched stems, and have a dull, mealy appearance.

Branched common lambsquarters inflorescence.