Blitum capitatum
Strawberry-blite

Alaska Wildflowers | Other Colors

Red inflorescence spike (red fruit and black seeds) and leaves of Blitum capitatum, commonly known as strawberry-blite. (Synonym: Chenopodium capitatum)

Blitum capitatum
Strawberry-blite


(Also in literature as Chenopodium capitatum *see note in synonym section below)

Common Names

chénopode capité
blite goosefoot
Indian ink
Indian paint
strawberry goosefoot
strawberry spinach
strawberry-blight
strawberry-blite

Synonyms

Blitum virgatum var. capitatum
Blitum virgatum ssp. capitatum
Chenopodium capitatum*
Morocarpus capitatus

*The species initially described as Blitum capitatum by Linnaeus has undergone various reclassifications over time, leading to its inclusion in the genus Chenopodium as Chenopodium capitatum (as in Ambrosi, Hulten). Recent phylogenetic studies, notably by Fuentes-Bazan et al., have provided evidence supporting its return to the original genus Blitum, thus reviving the name Blitum capitatum. Both names have been used in the literature, but Blitum capitatum is currently preferred based on the latest taxonomic insights.

Subspecies

Blitum capitatum var. capitatum
Chenopodium capitatum var. parvicapitatum

Genus: Chenopodium
Family: Amaranthaceae (pigweed, amaranthes)
Order: Caryophyllales
taxonomic heirarchy

Duration – Growth Habit

Annual – Forb/herb



Identification and Information

Blitum capitatum, commonly known as strawberry-blite, Indian paint, or Indian ink, is an annual herb that grows from a stout taproot. The stems can be erect or decumbent, glabrous, branched, and 15-50 cm (up to 100 cm) long. The leaves are alternate, petioled (1.5-10 cm long), and triangular (sometimes lanceolate or ovate), often described as arrowhead-shaped with an acute apex. The leaf margins may be sharply dentate or entire.

The inflorescence is a spike of dense, spherical, globose clusters (glomerules) along the stem, 5-20 cm long. The flowers lack petals and bloom green with 3-4 stamens and 2 stigmas. The sepals become red and fleshy in fruit, looking like a berry. The black seeds are 0.7-1.22 mm in diameter.


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Uses

For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

Numerous traditional uses are documented, including food, drug, and paint or dye. However, it might be toxic in large amounts, containing oxalates.

The leaves are eaten raw when young as a salad or cooked as a source of vitamins C and A (Alaska Native—general), and the seeds are eaten as a food (Gosiute).

The plant is used unspecified as a dermatological aid, such as a lotion for head bruises and black eyes (Navajo). The juice of the seeds and infusion of the plant are used as a pulmonary aide for lung congestion (Potawatomi).

Flowers are mashed with water to make ink, dye, or paint for the body, clothes, wood, or skins (Upper Tanana, Carrier, Potawatomi, and Thompson).


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Distribution and Habitat

Map data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), NatureServe Explorer, and Kew

Blitum capitatum is native and widespread throughout much of North America, including Alaska, most of Canada, and the northern and western United States (absent from southeast and southcentral). NatureServe Explorer lists it as exotic in a few midwestern states and Montana. The Roal Botanic Gardens Plants of the World (Kew) lists it as an introduced species in Europe (where it has become prolific in central Europe) and New Zealand.

It lives in moist to dry areas, often populating waste places, sandy or grassy meadows, thickets, open woods, or clearings in forests, primarily in lower elevations.

Classification

RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)
SubkingdomViridiplantae (green plants)
InfrakingdomStreptophyta (land plants)
SuperdivisionEmbryophyta 
DivisionTracheophyta (vascular plants, tracheophytes)
SubdivisionSpermatophytina (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)
ClassMagnoliopsida 
SuperorderCaryophyllanae 
OrderCaryophyllales 
FamilyAmaranthaceae (pigweed, amaranthes)
GenusChenopodium L. (goosefoot)
SpeciesBlitum capitatum (strawberry-blite)
[Chenopodium capitatum (L.) Ambrosi (see note at top)]
 Direct Children:
 VarietyChenopodium capitatum var. capitatum (L.) Ambrosi (strawberry spinach, blite goosefoot)
 VarietyChenopodium capitatum var. parvicapitatum S.L. Welsh

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References and Further Reading

Guidebook

Johnson, D., Kershaw, L., & MacKinnon, A. (2020). Plants of the Western Forest: Alaska to Minnesota Boreal and Aspen Parkland (3rd ed., p. 193). Partners Publishing. ISBN 978-1772130591.

Brandenburg, D. M. 2010. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Wildflowers of North America. Sterling Publishing. (p. 197)

Classification and Taxonomy

Plants of the World Online (POWO). (n.d.). Blitum capitatum L. Retrieved 4 April 2024, from https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:302085-2.

Database of Vascular Plants of Canada (VASCAN). (n.d.). Blitum capitatum L. Retrieved 4 April 2024, from https://data.canadensys.net/vascan/taxon/14704?lang=en.

Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). (n.d.). Chenopodium capitatum Ambrosi. Retrieved 4 April 2024, from https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=20599#null.

USDA, NRCS. (n.d.). Chenopodium capitatum Ambrosi – Strawberry Blite. The PLANTS Database. Retrieved 4 April 2024, from https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=CHCA4.

Uses

Native American Ethnobotany Database. (n.d.). Chenopodium capitatum (Strawberry Blite). Retrieved 4 April 2024, from http://naeb.brit.org/uses/species/898/.

Map and Distribution

GBIF Secretariat. (n.d.). Blitum capitatum L. GBIF Backbone Taxonomy. Retrieved 4 April 2024, from https://www.gbif.org/species/5383971.

NatureServe. (2021). Chenopodium capitatum. NatureServe Explorer. Retrieved 4 April 2024, from https://explorer.natureserve.org/Taxon/ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.143645/Chenopodium_capitatum.

Description and Information

Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. (n.d.). Chenopodium capitatum. In Flora of North America North of Mexico. Retrieved 4 April 2024, from http://floranorthamerica.org/Chenopodium_capitatum.

E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Plants of British Columbia. (n.d.). Blitum capitatum. Retrieved 4 April 2024, from https://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Blitum%20capitatum&redblue=Both&lifeform=7.

Hultén, E. (1968). Flora of Alaska and Neighboring Territories: A Manual of the Vascular Plants (1st ed.) (pg. 578). Stanford University Press.

Alaska Center for Conservation Science. (n.d.). Blitum capitatum. Retrieved 4 April 2024, from https://ecologicalatlas.uaf.edu/index.php/browse-plant-species/atlas-page/?nps_id=478.

Fuentes-Bazan, S., Uotila, P., & Borsch, T. (2012). A novel phylogeny-based generic classification for Chenopodium sensu lato, and a tribal rearrangement of Chenopodioideae (Chenopodiaceae). Willdenowia, 42(1), 5-24. Retrieved 4 April 2024, from https://doi.org/10.3372/wi.42.42101.

 

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