Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Amaranthaceae, Amaranth or Pigweed Family
Includes the Chenopodiaceae

Amaranthaceae or the Amaranth Family consists of annual or perennial herbs or subshrubs often in alkaline or salt heavy habitats. They have primitive or simple reproductive characteristics and small capsule fruits that split open along its circumference (circumscissile). Leaves are simple, mostly alternate and some almost vestigial reduced to small scales. They are mostly without large showy flowers and elaborate fruits with advanced strategies for seed dispersal.

Amaranthaceae now include the Chenopodiaceae or Goosefoot Family as they share many of the same characteristics.

Amaranths have few economically important species but some are significant such as spinach and chard both of which provide substantial amounts of protein. Many members of the family are weedy and thrive in hot dry desert habitats such as those found in the southwestern part of the United States.

With the inclusion of the Chenopodiacace there are over 160 genera and more than 7,700 accepted species. About 30 species in Arizona.

References:
The Plant List. A working list of all known plant species. [accessed 15 February 2015]
http://www.theplantlist.org/browse/A/Amaranthaceae/
Wikipedia contributors, 'Amaranthaceae', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 January 2015, 14:05 UTC,
[accessed 15 February 2015]
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database – ITIS search