30 October 2010

Amaranth and Spreen for the wildlife

The first Amaranth I grew from seed was Love Lies Bleeding ornamental. And, I've written about Amaranth before, because if you grow a few varieties, you are providing nectar for adult butterflies, seeds for fall migrating birds, and a feast for your eyes.

This other October beauty, Chenopodium gigantum, is commonly called Magenta Spreen, Purple Goosefoot, Tree Spinach and Giant Lambsquarters.

Can you beat the pink and green colors of Magenta Spreen for their cheerfulness when paired on the same leaf?

Hopi Red Dye, Amaranth, Spreen, Chinese Spinach, call them what you will, I love these plants that many gardeners consider weeds.


Here are two varieties growing together in the nectar bed. The Globe Amaranth or Gomphrena, on the left in pink and the Cockscomb seedlings in hot red on the right. The leaf colors are stunningn the fall.


Then, let's talk about fall leaf colors on the Spreen.

These leaves are on the same variety but in different beds with varying fertility and water.

Sharon Owen gave me my first seeds of these that I grow for fall bird food. The leaves can be used in salad and cooked as a pot green. Seeds of Change recommends cutting them down before they go to seed to prevent an invasion.

The seeds are also eaten as a protein grain, added to breads, for a vegetarian diet. At our house, they all go to the birds. If you eat Quinoa or other gluten free grains, you'll be interested to know that they are in this same plant family, Amaranthus.

The petiole (leaf stem) is bright pink and the stem is striped pink and green.
Then, there is the height. In part shade they tend to fall over from the sheer weight of the seed heads. If grown in full sun though, they tower over me by several feet.
If you would enjoy having more birds and butterflies in your garden, plant any Amaranth!

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