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Fig-leaved Goosefoot

Chenopodium ficifolium

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall
Fields, meadows, wasteland.

Green, no petals
Slender branched flower spikes. Wind-pollinated.
The fruit are not visible. They are enclosed within the flower itself. The seeds ripen between August and October.
An annual flower with 3-lobed leaves. The central lobe is much larger than the 2 lateral lobes. The unlobed upper leaves are narrower.
Other Names:
Figleaf Goosefoot.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Chenopodium ficifolium, also known as fig-leaved goosefoot, is an annual plant in the Amaranthaceae family. It is native to South America, but has been introduced to other parts of the world. It can reach a height of up to 1 meter and has green, lobed leaves that resemble fig leaves and small, greenish-white flowers that bloom in the summer.

Chenopodium ficifolium is often found in a variety of habitats, including cultivated fields, meadows, waste ground, and disturbed soils. It is tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions, including dry and infertile soils, and is able to colonize in disturbed areas.

Like other Chenopodium species, it contains toxic compounds, such as saponins, and should not be consumed in large quantities. In some cases, it has been reported to cause skin rashes and other allergic reactions. It is not commonly used for food or medicinal purposes, and is considered a weed in agricultural lands. It is generally controlled by means of physical removal or chemical treatment.


Fig-leaved Goosefoot, scientifically known as Chenopodium ficifolium, is a species of annual plant belonging to the Amaranthaceae family. This plant is native to the Mediterranean region, including the Middle East, North Africa, and southern Europe. It is a common weed found in agricultural fields, gardens, and disturbed habitats, where it can grow up to 1 meter in height.

Fig-leaved Goosefoot is characterized by its distinctive fig-shaped leaves, which are lobed and have a pointed tip. The leaves are arranged alternately along the stem and are green in color. The flowers are small and inconspicuous, with male and female flowers on separate plants. The fruit is a small, shiny, and black seed enclosed in a papery covering.

Fig-leaved Goosefoot has a long history of human use as a food source. The leaves and young shoots are edible and can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable, similar to spinach or Swiss chard. The seeds are also edible and can be ground into a flour for baking or used as a substitute for quinoa.

In addition to its culinary uses, Fig-leaved Goosefoot has been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments. The leaves are believed to have diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties and have been used to treat kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and rheumatism. The seeds have been used to treat diarrhea and dysentery.

Fig-leaved Goosefoot is also known for its high nutritional value. The leaves and seeds are rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, including calcium, iron, and potassium. It is also a good source of antioxidants, which may help protect against chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Despite its many uses, Fig-leaved Goosefoot is considered a weed in many regions and can compete with crops for resources. However, it also has ecological value as a host plant for many insect species and as a source of food for birds and small mammals.

Fig-leaved Goosefoot is a hardy plant that can grow in a wide range of soil types and environmental conditions, from dry and arid regions to wetlands and coastal areas. It is also tolerant of salinity and can grow in saline soils. This makes it a useful plant for soil stabilization and erosion control.

In addition to its uses as food and medicine, Fig-leaved Goosefoot has also been studied for its potential as a biofuel crop. The seeds contain high levels of oil, which can be extracted and processed into biodiesel. This could be a sustainable alternative to traditional fossil fuels and could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Fig-leaved Goosefoot is also an important plant in traditional culture and folklore. In some regions, it is believed to have protective properties and is used in amulets and charms. It has also been associated with fertility and is used in traditional fertility rituals in some cultures.

However, despite its many benefits, Fig-leaved Goosefoot can be invasive in some regions and can outcompete native plant species. It is important to manage its growth and spread to prevent it from becoming a nuisance or damaging to local ecosystems.

Fig-leaved Goosefoot is a fascinating plant with a long history of human use and many potential applications. As we continue to explore its potential, it is important to balance its benefits with careful management to ensure that it remains a valuable resource without causing harm to the environment.

One interesting aspect of Fig-leaved Goosefoot is its relationship with the soil microbiome. Like many other plants, it forms symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi, which help it absorb nutrients from the soil. These fungi form networks of threads that extend out from the roots, allowing the plant to access nutrients and water that it might not otherwise be able to reach.

Fig-leaved Goosefoot also has the ability to accumulate heavy metals in its tissues, which can make it a useful plant for phytoremediation. This process involves using plants to remove pollutants from contaminated soils, water, or air. Fig-leaved Goosefoot has been shown to be effective at removing metals such as lead, cadmium, and copper from contaminated soils, making it a potential tool for environmental cleanup.

In terms of conservation, Fig-leaved Goosefoot is not currently considered a threatened or endangered species. However, as with many other plant species, its habitat is under pressure from human activities such as agriculture, urbanization, and climate change. It is important to monitor its populations and ensure that it remains a healthy and vital part of its local ecosystem.

In addition to its uses in human and animal nutrition, Fig-leaved Goosefoot has also been used for its medicinal properties in traditional medicine systems across its native range. It is believed to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been used to treat conditions such as skin infections, intestinal worms, and fever.

Modern scientific studies have confirmed some of these traditional uses of Fig-leaved Goosefoot. For example, one study found that a leaf extract of the plant exhibited significant antibacterial activity against a range of bacterial strains, including those responsible for common infections like strep throat and pneumonia.

Another study investigated the plant's potential as a treatment for diabetes. The researchers found that a seed extract of Fig-leaved Goosefoot was able to significantly lower blood glucose levels in diabetic rats, suggesting that it may have potential as a natural treatment for diabetes in humans.

Fig-leaved Goosefoot has also been used in traditional dye-making. The plant produces a yellow dye from its leaves, which has been used for centuries to color fabrics and other materials.

Overall, Fig-leaved Goosefoot is a plant with a rich history of use in human cultures around the world. Its nutritional, medicinal, and ecological benefits make it a valuable resource with many potential applications. As we continue to explore its potential, it is important to balance its uses with careful management to ensure its sustainability and preserve its role in local ecosystems.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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