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Fat Hen

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A very common but rather nondescript weed of cultivated land found in the corners of fields everywhere.



Fat-hen: pernitious weed yet valuable food crop

Post date: Tuesday, 30 June, 2015 - 00:00

Anyone who has been for a walk in the countryside and crossed farm land will have seen fat-hen (Chenopodium album) but many will not have given it a second glance, if they noticed it in the first place. Fat-hen is one of the most common weeds of cultivation and yet one of the most nondescript. It has little to attract attention or single it out from other plants.

It is quite variable in appearance and can grow anything up to five feet tall although often it is much, much smaller. The flowers hardly look like flowers at all being crusty in appearance and dull white in colour; they look as though they are yet to fully open. The leaves are pale green with the ones at the bottom looking a bit mealy! Overall, it is wishy-washy, untidy and unremarkable.

Once upon a time fat-hen was an important food crop in its own right in Europe and there is evidence that it was eaten as early as the neolithic period and probably before. Now our farmers try to eradicate it from their fields which is not easy, it is a pretty rampant plant that is hard to remove. In some parts of the world it is considered to a major pest, in others, notably India, it is still used as a food crop. It has also been extensively used to feed farm animals and in addition to chickens it is fed to pigs and is sometimes known as pigweed.


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Fat Hen
Scientific Name Chenopodium album
Family Goosefoot family - Chenopodiaceae
Status Locally common
Interest Level
Species Family Goosefoot Family - Amaranthaceae
Flower Colour Group Green
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
Preferred Environment
Look for Strudy plant with a rather mealy look to the leaves and a red stem
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

This species is often found in these habitats:

Habitat(s) Relationship
BA: Arable farmland Associated