Encyclopedia Article

Kochia                                    Bassia scoparia (L.) Schrad.

Family:   Amaranthaceae (formerly in Chenopodiaceae)        
Life cycle:   Annual    
Native status:  Introduced        
Habitat:  Crop fields (particularly small grains), railroads, disturbed areas, more prevalent in western Iowa

General description:  Erect, highly branched plant up to 5 ft tall with sessile, blue-green to gray-green, linear leaves.  Leaves on young plants are up to 2.5” long and ovate in shape, but as plants mature the leaves are linear and up to 1” in length.  Inconspicuous, green flowers produced in leaf axils and terminal spikes.

Key ID traits:  Alternate leaves are up to 2.5 in long and ¼” wide and hairy, often with three prominent veins.  Long hairs present on floral spikes.  Stems are round and often red.

Miscellaneous:  Kochia is one of the earliest emerging summer annuals in Iowa, which limits its occurrence in corn and soybean since the majority of plants emerge prior to planting.  It was introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental because of its red, fall color.  Cultivated varieties are available.  Kochia is one of the major weed problems in the U.S. Great Plains where small grains are grown. Kochia and Russian thistle are two of the tumbleweeds common to the western U.S.

Weed ID factsheets index

seedling with pubescent, ovate leaves
Seedling with pubescent, ovate leaves


The underside of kochia leaves have three prominent veins.

mature stem with small, linear leaves
Mature stem with small, linear leaves

Kochia growth habit

mature plant preparing to tumble across landscape
Mature kochia ready to roll across landscape. Kochia is one of several species known as tumbleweeds.

Seed trail from a rolling herbicide resistant kochia.