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Fat Hen

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Fat Hen photos
Family name: Chenopodiaceae (Saltbush Family).  

Scientific Name:Chenopodium album
Fat Hen plants
Fat Hen plants
Photo: A J Brown

Other Common Names:

Lambsquarters, Lambs Quarter, Mutton Tops, Pigweed, Bacon Weed,
White Goosefoot, Wild Spinach, Allgood.


Introduced to Australia from Europe and eastern Asia.

Plant Description:

An erect, almost odourless, annual, herb growing to 1.5-2.5 m high with angular stems. Lower leaves rhombic to ovate and 3-5 cm long but up to 10 cm and upper leaves elliptic to linear. Leaf surfaces mealy (with a powdery or floury covering) but particularly so on the lower and whitish to greyish or bluish-green.

Flower-heads are in panicles, the larger being leafy but not obscuring the flowers. Flowers are greyish or greenish and clustered, bisexual or female, consisting of 5 parts (perianth segments) fused in the lower half. Stamens 5. Seed 1-1.5 mm diameter, black and smooth.


Mainly a weed of waste places, roadsides, stock-yards and horticultural cropping soils but can be found in or on the edges of saline sites.

RegionSalinity ClassWaterlogging Class
Mallee*, Central and Northern, Wimmera, Western, GippslandS0, S1, S2W0, W1, W2
*largely confined to irrigated horticultural soils


Fat Hen derived its name from being used for fattening poultry. It is also grown as a human food crop (either as grain or a green vegetable) in parts of Africa and Asia, including northern India, where it is known as Bathua, or as a fodder crop for cattle. It has been found as a food source in archaeological sites dating back to Roman and Iron Age.

Fat Hen is similar to Sowbane (Chenopodium murale) but differs in having reduced leaves within the flower-head. The Goosefoots and some Saltbush species (e.g. Orache - Atriplex prostrata) are similar in their vegetative stage and often difficult to tell apart without fruit.

Fat Hen Photos

Fat Hen flowers
Fat Hen flowers
Photo: A J Brown
Fat Hen leaves close
Flat Hen flower-head
Photo: A J Brown

Fat Hen leaves
Leaves of Fat Hen
Photo: A J Brown

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