Friday, February 8, 2013

Amaranthus in Macedon. Ornamental, Edible or Weed?

I brought home these deep red Amaranthus as tiny seedlings that we sowed in pots in Parkville. I'm generally not a fan of the plum red coloured plants. They remind me of those horrible Prunus trees that you see planted in the naturestrips of Melbourne suburbs but I have grown accustomed to these Amaranthus plants. I think they would make a nice backdrop plant with more brightly coloured plants in the foreground.

Amaranthus is the genus of this plant and Amaranthaceae is the family. The genus contains over 60 different species which vary in colour and shape. The flowers and foliage can be green, purple, red or yellow or a combination of these depending on the species. Another type I want to grow in the future is a tricolour variant called, believe it or not, Amaranthus tricolour.

Amaranthus are annual, warm season plants. They are related to Celosias. They are not just used as ornamental plants. Some species are used as food crops. The seed contains protein and the food known as Quinoa is in fact from a plant of the Amaranthaceae family. Flour can be made from Amaranthus seed and the leaves, stems and roots from certain species are also edible. A red dye can also be produced from some Amaranthus plants.

Some Amaranthus plants are also considered weeds. Recently a new strain called Amaranthus palmeri has emerged which is resistant to Glyphosate (roundup). Amaranthus come from the Greek word Amarantos which means 'unwithering'. It is the subject of an ancient Greek fable where a Rose flower is jealous of the Amaranthus flower because it is unwithering whereas the Rose only lasts a season. This is confusing as Amaranthus plants are all considered annuals or short lived perennials according to all information I've researched.

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