Amaranthaceae, the amaranth family; formerly Chenopodiaceae, the goosefoot family.
Plant: Upright plant, 1'-3' high with reddish-striped stem, sinuate-dentate leaves, and spikes of small, greenish flowers. Strong, pungent scent. Annual.
Flowers: Tiny, greenish or whitish, 1/4", with 5 reduced sepals, in tight, spikelike cluster or cymose panicle. Individual flowers are inconspicuous, though the greenish spikes are quite distinct.
Leaves: Alternate, narrowly ovate to lanceolate, to about 4", lightly dusted with whitish, mealy particles. Coarsely, and somewhat sinuately toothed or lobed, with short petioles.
Fruit: Small, 1-seeded.
Habitat: Waste areas, roadsides.
Native to Mexico and Central America, but widely introduced in North America, where
it is often a weed.
Known as Epazote in Mexico, it is used as an herb, particularly to flavor bean dishes, and
sometimes eaten as a leaf vegetable, though in limited quantities due to its pungent flavor.
The same pungent characteristics have also led to its use in traditional medicine.
The essential oil of the plant contains a botanically unusual peroxide (ascaridole)
and seems to be clinically active as an intestinal antihelminthic.
The compound is also somewhat toxic to people, so a degree of caution is warranted.
Where to find it:
In rock patches bordering the western commercial parking lots, and scattered in other
waste areas in the park.