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Family: Amaranthaceae (sugarbeet, spinach family)

[= Chenopodiaceae]

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Core Eudicots > Order: Caryophyllales 

About 174 genera and 2050 species (cosmopolitan) of which 33 genera and 206 species are native to southern Africa, an additional six genera and 42 species are naturalised, and an additional five genera and 21 species are cultivated in the region.

Genera native to southern Africa

Information mainly from Jordaan (2000a, b).

Achyropsis

Six species, native to Africa, with three species native to southern Africa.

 

Aerva

About 10 species, native to the warmer regions of Africa and Asia, with three species native to southern Africa. 

 

Amaranthus

About 60 species, found worldwide mainly in warmer regions. Eight species are native to southern Africa, 10 species are naturalised, and a further species is cultivated in the region. Species of Amaranthus are cultivated and the leaves cooked like spinach ('morogo').

 

Arthraerua

One species, Arthraerua leubnitziae, native to the coast of Namibia.

 

Atriplex

About 250 species, found worldwide, mainly in arid, saline or disturbed habitats in temperate and tropical regions. There are 12 species native to southern Africa, five naturalised, and an additional eight species that have been cultivated in the region.

Atriplex semibaccata

Bassia

About 10 species, native to Eurasia and Africa, with four species native to southern Africa. Found in salt marshes along the coast and along rivers.

 

Calicorema

Two species, endemic to Namibia and South Africa (Northern Cape).

 

Celosia

About 45 species, native to the warmer regions of the world, with four species native to southern Africa, one species that is naturalised, and a further two species that are cultivated in the region.

 

Centema

Two species, native to southern tropical Africa, one of which, Centema subfusca, occurs in southern Africa.

 

Centemopsis

Three species (tropical Africa), of which one Centemopsis gracilenta is native to southern Africa, occurring in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. See Flora of Zimbabwe.

 

Centrostachys

One species, Centrostachys aquatica, which has a wide distribution over tropical Africa and Asia.

 

Chenopodium

About 150 species, found worldwide, with 10 species native to southern Africa, 13 species that are naturalised, and a further two species that are cultivated in the region. The leaves of a number of species are cooked and eaten in the same way as spinach.

 

Cyathula

About 25 species, widespread in the tropics, with eight species native to southern Africa.

 

Exomis

The sole species, Exomis microphylla, is native to arid areas of southern Africa.  

 

Halopeplis

Three species, native to southern Europe, Western Asia and Africa, with one species, Halopeplis amplexicaulis, native to southern Africa, occurring in saline habitats on the West Coast.

 

Halosarcia

Twenty-three species, nearly all endemic to Australia except for one species, Halosarcia indica, which has a wide distribution along the shores of the Indian Ocean, including the coast of Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal.

 

Hermbstaedtia

About 15 species, native to Africa, with 12 species native to southern Africa.

 

Kochia

About five species, native to Africa and Eurasia, with two species native to southern Africa, one species that is naturalised and a further species that is cultivated in the region.

 

Kyphocarpa

About four species, native to tropical and southern Africa, three of which occur in southern Africa.

 

Leucosphaera

One species, Leucosphaera bainesii, native to Angola, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa (Northern Cape).

 

Manochlamys

One species, Manochlamys albicans, native to Namibia and South Africa (Northern and Western Cape).

 

Marcelliopsis

Three species, all endemic to Namibia.

 

Nelsia

Nelsia quadrangula is native to Namibia and Botswana. The other species in the genus is native to Angola.

 

Nothosaerva

One species, Nothosaerva brachiata, with a wide distribution covering the Indian subcontinent and tropical Africa, including Mozambique, the Northern Province and northern KwaZulu-Natal.

 

Pandiaka

About 12 species, native to tropical Africa, with three species native to southern Africa.

 

Psilotrichum

About 18 species, native to tropical Africa and Asia, with one species, Psilotrichum scleranthum (see Flora of Zimbabwe), native to southern Africa.

 

Pupalia

Four species, native to the Old World tropics, with two species native to southern Africa. 

 

Salicornia

About 13 species, found nearly worldwide, but not Australia. Four species native to southern Africa, found along the coast in sheltered, saline conditions.

 

Salsola

About 150 species, native to Europe, Asia and Africa, where it occurs in arid and semi-arid regions. Eighty-eight species are native to southern Africa, and the weed Salsola kali has become naturalised in the region.

 

Sarcocornia

About 15 species, found nearly worldwide, with 12 species native to southern Africa, found along the coast.  

 

Sericocoma

Three species, endemic to southern Africa.

 

Sericorema

Two species, endemic to southern Africa.

 

Suaeda

About 110 species, found worldwide but mainly in the northern Hemisphere. Six species are native to southern Africa, found in saline conditions both inland and along the seashore.

 

Genera naturalised in southern Africa

Information mainly from Jordaan (2000a, b).

Achyranthes

About six to eight species, native to warm temperate and tropical regions of the Old World, with one species, Achyranthes aspera (Burweed, Chirchita), naturalised in southern Africa. See Flora of Zimbabwe, where it is split into var. pubescens and var. sicula.

 

Alternanthera

About 100 species, native mainly to the New World tropics and subtropics; four species have become naturalised in southern Africa and a further two species are cultivated in the region.

 

Beta

About 12 species, native mainly in Europe and the Mediterranean. Includes Beta vulgaris (Beetroot, Sugarbeet, Mangel-wurzel), which has become established as an escape from cultivation in southern Africa, mainly in the Western Cape.

Einadia

Six species, native to Australia and New Zealand. Einadia nutans has become naturalised in southern Africa.

 

Gomphrena

About 120 species, native mainly to the New World tropics and subtropics and also Australia; three species have become naturalised as weeds in southern Africa.

Guilleminea

Five species, native to the Americas; one species, Guilleminea densa, has become naturalised as a weed in southern Africa. See Flora of Zimbabwe.

 

Other species, cultivated in southern Africa

List from Glen (2002).

Bosea amherstiana

Native to Pakistan.

 

Einadia nutans (Climbing saltbush)

Native to Australia.

 

Maireana

About 57 species, endemic to Australia. Three species are cultivated in southern Africa.

 

Rhagodia parabolica

Native to Australia.

 

Spinacea oleracea (Spinach)

Spinacea oleracea appears to have been selectively cultivated from Spinacea tetrandra which is native to the mountainous regions of southwestern Asia (the Himalayas and Afghanistan). The first known record of using Spinach as a vegetable dates back to China in the 7th to 8th centuries AD and the first record of its use in Europe dates to the 1200's. 

 

Publications

  • Brenan, J.P.M. 1988. Chenopodiaceae. Flora Zambesiaca 9,1: 133-161.

  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated Plants of Southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.

  • Jordaan, M. 2000a. Amaranthaceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 49-56. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

  • Jordaan, M. 2000b. Chenopodiaceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 221-226. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

Text by Hamish Robertson


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