Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) is a close relative of quinoa and is generally considered a famine food. It was once a popular green but lost favor after spinach was introduced to Europeans around the 16th century. Although the plant is dense in nutrients, it can be mildly toxic if eaten in often or large quantities. Luckily, cooking resolves this issue. It remains a pervasive weed in agriculture and is found throughout the United States. Lamb’s quarters can be found in waste areas, roadsides, home gardens, and landscape beds.
The weed has triangular-shaped leaves with toothed leaf margins. The newest growth has a whitish film from epicuticular wax. This wax protects the leaves from water loss, high temperatures, and too much ultraviolet light. The plants can tolerate heat and drought and grow in a wide range of soil conditions.
It is a summer annual weed and can produce up to 72,000 seeds per plant. Its seeds can survive for over 30 years in the soil. The seeds tend to fall close to the mother plant but are also spread by animals that feed on the plant. Maintaining a 3-inch layer of coarse to medium bark mulch in landscape beds is the best way to prevent lamb’s quarters from becoming a problem in your landscape. For more information on mulch, please see HGIC 1604, Mulch.
Hand pulling young seedlings is the best way to control this weed in your landscape. The plant does have a taproot and can reach an average height of 3 feet but can grow as high as 6 feet tall. If pulling is too difficult, then make sure to remove flowers to prevent the plant from producing seeds.
Mowing will prevent this weed from becoming a problem in the lawn. Herbicides can be used to control young plants. For an herbicide recommendation appropriate for your site conditions, please contact Home and Garden Information Center or your local Extension office.
- Mamatha Hanumappa (2019). Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) is a Nutrient-Packed Edible Weed. University of the District of Columbia College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences. Fact Sheet 05.