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Amaranthus spinosus L.

Amaranthus spinosus L.





Vernacular Names



Bayam duri, bayam hutan (General).


Spiny amaranth, prickly amaranth, spiny pigweed.


Bayam berduri (Malay).


Bayam duri (General), bayem eri (Javanese), senggang cucuk (Sundanese).


Urai (Tagalog), harum (Bisaya), kalunai (Iloko).


Phti: bânla: (Pursat).


Hôm hna:m (General).


Mang-lang-du (Karen-Mae Hong Son), pa-tue (Khmer), phak hom nam (Peninsular).


Rau d[eef]n gai (General), gi[eef]ngai (Ha Nam Ninh).


Epinard malabre.

Geographical Distributions

Amaranthus spinosus occurs in all tropical and subtropical regions, including the whole of Southeast Asia, often gregariously and as a weed. It is sometimes found in temperate zones as well. It has been suggested that spiny amaranth originates from lowland tropical South and Central America, and that it was introduced in other warmer parts of the world from about 1700 AD onwards. Nowadays, it is rarely cultivated.


Amaranthus spinosus is an annual, erect monoecious herb up to 100(-130) cm tall and it is much branched. The stem is terete or obtusely angular, smooth or slightly hairy, and green or variably suffused with purple.

The leaves are arranged alternate, simple and entire, ovate-lance-shaped to rhomboid, measuring 3.5-11 cm x 1-4.5 cm, acute and slightly decurrent at base, obtuse, rounded or slightly retuse and often short mucronate at apex, hairless or slightly hairy on veins when young. The petiole is rather long, approximately as long as leaf blade. Stipules are absent.

The inflorescence consists of dense clusters. The lower ones are axillary while the higher ones are often collected in an axillary and terminal spike which is often branched in its lower part. The axillary clusters are usually armed with (1-)2(-3) very sharp spines up to 2 cm long. The flowers are solitary in the axil of a bract, subtended by 2 bracteoles, with scarious bracts and bracteoles, mucronate from a broad base, shorter or as long as the perianth and unisexual. The male flowers are usually arranged in a terminal spike above the base of the inflorescence and it is green. There are 5 tepals or often 3 in male flowers, free, subequal, ovate-oblong to oblong-spatulate, measure up to 2.5 mm long, very convex, membranous, with transparent margins and green or purple median band. There are 5 stamens and they are about as long as tepals. The ovary is superior, oblong, 1-celled, with 2-3 styles and ultimately recurved.

The fruit is an oblong utricle with persisting styles, circumscissile a little below the middle or indehiscent and 1-seeded. The seed is about 1 mm in diametre, shiny black or brownish-black with thin margin. Seedling is with epigeal germination. Cotyledons are leafy and hairless while apex is rounded to slightly acute. The hypocotyl is up to 12 mm long while epicotyl is absent. 

Ecology / Cultivation

Amaranthus spinosus is adapted to a wide range of climatic and edaphic factors. It grows best in the sun or in light shade; light intensity of less than 30% completely suppresses flowering. Flowering is the earliest and most abundant in areas with day length of 11-12 hours. It is nitrophilous and prefers soils with high organic matter content, but is also able to grow on sandy soils. Optimal growth is obtained on soils with moderate moisture content, but spiny amaranth is capable of growing on wet soils as well. It is drought-resistant and can even grow under arid conditions. A. spinosus is a very noxious weed in many parts of the world. It is, for instance, troublesome in upland rice, sugar cane and carrot in Indonesia, in maize in the Philippines, in groundnut and soya bean in Taiwan, and in tomato and field pea in India. In Southeast Asia, it is very common in roadsides, waste places, railway yards, cropped lands and gardens up to 1400 m altitude.

Line Drawing / Photograph


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  1) Safety


  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.12(1): Medicinal and poisonous plants 1.

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