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Wild amaranth (Amaranthus graecizans)


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

Wild amaranth, prostrate amaranth, spreading pigweed [English]; amarante sauvage, amarante sylvestre, amarante africaine [French]; amaranto, brodo, tristes [Portuguese]; Mchicha [Swahili]; Emboge [Uganda]; Landchi [Hausa]; Foubéhi [Djerma]; Légey [Peuhl]; Tadchialane-Gathaiy [Tamachek]


The wild amaranth (Amaranthus graecizans L.) is an annual, summer growing herb species found in Africa, Asia and Southern Europe. It is mainly used as a vegetable. Its use for fodder (silage) has been reported in Sahelian Africa but information is limited.


Amaranthus graecizans is a small (45-70 cm), prostrate or decumbent annual plant. It is often heavily branched from the base. The stems are erect to decumbent, pubescent in distal parts or becoming glabrescent at maturity. Stems and branches are slender to stout, angular in shape. The leaves are simple, spirally arranged, borne on 3-5 cm long petioles. The leaf blade is variable in shape from broadly ovate to narrowly linear lanceolate, 1.2-4.5 cm long × 3-12 (30) mm broad. Inflorescences are green axillary clusters bearing male and female flowers. The upper clusters bear more male flowers than the lower ones. Fruits are dehiscent globose, one-seeded capsules, 2-2.5 mm in diameter. The seeds are black, shiny, lenticular in shape, about 1-1.3 mm (Maundu et al., 2004).


In tropical Africa, Amaranthus graecizans is mainly harvested from the wild and used as a cooked leaf vegetable or, as it has been reported in Uganda, as a potherb by elder people who appreciate its bitter taste (Hart et al., 2005; Maundu et al., 2004). Because the shoots have many unedible flowers, it is necessary to pick leaves only, a time-consuming activity that hinders its value on the market. The seeds can be ground into flour to make cakes in Mauritania and western USA. The ashes from wild amaranth can be used as a substitute of salt. Like other plants, wild amaranth has some ethnomedicinal applications. In Senegal, it is claimed to have anthelmintic activity (Maundu et al., 2004). It contains many active substances (terpenoids, tannins, etc...) and was shown to have antioxidant properties (Ishtiaq et al., 2014). The use of Amaranthus graecizans forage as silage only has been reported in Sahelian Africa (Bartha, 1970).


Amaranthus graecizans is thought to be native to the Mediterranean Basin and Asia. It can be found in most African countries, in Asia, and in Southern Europe. It is found from sea level up to 2900 m altitude. As a C4 plant, it does well in hot sunny areas where water can be scarce. It grows on degraded land and waste ground around garden and fields (Fern, 2019; Maundu et al., 2004). It does well on well-drained, moist, fertile sandy soils with a wide range of pH, in sheltered and sunny places. Amaranthus graecizans is sensitive to frost and to full shade but still grows under partial shade at forest edges (Fern, 2019; Maundu et al., 2004).

Forage management 

Amaranthus graecizans can be propagated by seeds or cuttings. It is mainly found wild and harvested for its leaves which require fresh water to be kept fresh when sold on market (Maundu et al., 2004).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Amaranthus graecizans forage has a protein content in the 15-23% range and is relatively rich in fibre (ADF 25-30% DM) and ash (12-22% DM).

Potential constraints 

Anti-nutritional factors

The seeds and leafy parts of amaranth species contains anti-nutritional factors like phenolics, saponins, tannins, phytic acid, oxalates, protease inhibitors, nitrates, polyphenols and phytohemagglutinins (Lehman, 1992). Amaranths are prone to accumulate nitrate in their green tissues and not in the seeds, notably when the plants have suffered from drought or frost. Wild amaranths should not be grown on N rich soils. Oxalates and nitrates are of more concern when amaranth grain is used in foraging application, and when the diet is not balanced with other feeds (Alegbejo, 2013O'Brien et al., 1983). Processing (moist heat) could reduce these adverse effects (Alegbejo, 2013).

Nitrate accumulator

Amaranths are prone to accummulate nitrate in their green tissues and not in the seeds.Wild amaranth should not be grown on N rich soils. Nitrates could be of concern when the plants have suffered from drought or frost. Oxalates and nitrates are of more concern when amaranth grain is used in foraging applications (Alegbejo, 2013).


In Australia, chicken fed on raw amaranth grain had convulsion and died. Liver damage was reported to have occured but the toxic factor remained unidentified (Cheeke et al., 1980 cited by Alegbejo, 2013).


Information on the use of Amaranthus graecizans as ruminant fodder is limited. It has been described as appreciated by livestock when fed as silage in Sahelian Africa (Bartha, 1970). It is considered as a promising wild fodder in Saudi Arabia (Alsherif, 2018).


As of  2021, no information seems available in the international literature on the use of any part of Amaranthus graecizans) in domestic rabbit feeding. In Southern Idaho (USA) wild jack rabbits consume this spontaneous plant in August (Fagerstone et al., 1980). As shown in the introduction, this species is also used for human food. Wild amaranth could thus probably be a safe forage suitable for rabbits, but direct experiments would be welcome.

Nutritional tables

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Crude protein % DM 19.9       1  
Crude fibre % DM 21.0       1  
Ether extract % DM 1.5       1  
Ash % DM 17.0       1  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 16.7         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 18.1       1  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 5.4       1  
Potassium g/kg DM 37.0       1  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.2       1  
Magnesium g/kg DM 8.9       1  

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Bartha, 1970

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:43:37

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 28.4   27.5 29.7 4  
Crude protein % DM 18.4 3 14.6 23.2 6  
Crude fibre % DM 23         *
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 50.1   46 55.5 4  
Acid detergent fibre % DM 26.3   24.5 29.5 4  
Lignin % DM 4.9   2.7 7 4  
Ether extract % DM 3 0.8 1.5 3.9 6  
Ash % DM 15.9 3.5 11.7 21.7 6  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.2         *
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Arginine g/16g N 5       1  
Cystine g/16g N 0.9       1  
Histidine g/16g N 2.4       1  
Isoleucine g/16g N 5.3       1  
Leucine g/16g N 8.2       1  
Lysine g/16g N 4.8       1  
Methionine g/16g N 1.2       1  
Methionine+cystine g/16g N 2.1         *
Phenylalanine g/16g N 4.1       1  
Phenylalanine+tyrosine g/16g N 7.2         *
Threonine g/16g N 3.4       1  
Tryptophan g/16g N 1.3       1  
Tyrosine g/16g N 3.2       1  
Valine g/16g N 5.5       1  
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 12.5 6.1 1.8 18.1 6  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 5.3 1.7 3.6 8.5 6  
Potassium g/kg DM 18.5 11.4 2.3 37 6  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.44 0.29 0.11 0.8 6  
Magnesium g/kg DM 8.5 3.8 3 14.5 6  
In vitro digestibility and solubility Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
In vitro DM digestibility (pepsin) % 63   61 65 4  
Ruminants nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 69.3         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 66.3         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 11.4         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.1         *
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 8.5         *
MEn rabbit MJ/kg DM 7.8         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 49         *
Nitrogen digestibility, rabbit % 70.6         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Alsherif, 2018; Bartha, 1970; Oliveira et al., 1975

Last updated on 28/07/2021 10:56:44

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Giger-Reverdin S., Lebas F., 2021. Wild amaranth (Amaranthus graecizans). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://feedipedia.org/node/187 Last updated on July 28, 2021, 12:10