Latin: Chenopodium album
Other names: Lamb’s quarters, white goosefoot
Fat hen is a widespread weed found in the United Kingdom that belongs to the amaranth family (Amaranthaceae). It is also known as lamb’s quarters or white goosefoot. This weed can be identified by its broad, triangular leaves and clusters of small green flowers.
Fat hen is an annual plant that typically grows upright, reaching heights of up to 1.5 meters. It is commonly found in agricultural fields, gardens, waste areas, and disturbed soils. Fat hen is native to Europe and has naturalized in the UK.
Identifying Fat Hen
Fat hen possesses several distinct features that help distinguish it from other similar-looking plants. The leaves of fat hen are alternate, broad, and triangular in shape, with irregularly toothed margins. The leaves have a whitish or mealy appearance on the undersides.
The flowers of fat hen are small and green, forming dense clusters known as inflorescences. These inflorescences are arranged in panicles at the tips of the stems. The flowers bloom from summer to autumn and are followed by small seeds enclosed in papery bracts.
The Challenges of Fat Hen
Fat hen’s rapid growth and ability to produce abundant seeds make it a competitive species that can outcompete desired crops and grassland. Fat hen competes for resources such as nutrients, water, and sunlight, leading to reduced crop yields. Fat hen also contains antinutritional elements such as saponins and oxalic acid so not ideal for grazing.
Additionally, fat hen can act as a host for certain plant diseases and pests, further impacting nearby crops. It has a high reproductive capacity, with each plant capable of producing thousands of seeds, which can remain viable in the soil for many years, contributing to ongoing infestations.
Controlling Fat Hen
When using herbicides, selective options that target broadleaf weeds while sparing desired plants should be chosen. It is important to follow the instructions and safety guidelines provided by the herbicide manufacturer when applying these products.