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Good King Henry

Blitum bonus-henricus

  • Name also: All-good, Poor-man’s Asparagus, Perennial Goosefoot, Lincolnshire Spinach, Mercury, Markery, Good-King-Henry
  • Latin synonym: Chenopodium bonus-henricus
  • Family: Amaranth Family – Amaranthaceae
    (formerly Goosefoot Family – Chenopodiaceae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 15–70 cm (6–28 in.). Stem erect, thick, scarcely-branched–unbranched, often sticky.
  • Flower: Usually regular, small, ca 2 mm (0.1 in.). Perianth consists of 3 to 5 green segments, united at the base. Stamens 2 to 5. Carpels fused, gynoecium 2–3-styled. Most flowers borne at the top of the stem in a dense, leafless, conical group of dense clusters.
  • Leaves: Alternate, long-stalked. Blade triangular, often hastate, with entire margins and tapering point.
  • Fruit: Achene.
  • Habitat: Gardens, yards, old ruins, pastures. Occasional in ports and around mills.
  • Flowering time: (May–)June–July.
  • Endangerment: Near threatened. Protected on the Åland Islands.

The Amaranth family, contains about 160 genera and some 2,400 species. Subfamily Chenopodioideae includes 75 genera and some 1,500 species – the figures in the Nordic countries are 8 and 30. The species within genus Blitum (earlier Chenopodium) are difficult to distinguish between. They often include several varieties whose identification usually requires the use of a microscope. One of the important distinguishing characters is the texture of the seed-coat. The genus is easily confused with the oraches (Atriplex spp.). However, the latter have unisexual flowers and characteristic fruit-enclosing bracts.

Good King Henry is perennial, unlike other Blitum species. It is associated with old cultural influence. It can best be distinguished from its close relatives by the long-stalked, triangular leaves and long, spike-like inflorescence. The stem is often sticky, and the glandular hairs are stalked. With the help of energy stored in its thick, perennial root, good King Henry develops fleshy leaves that have been used as spinach. It has also been used as a herbal medicine to alleviate stomach-ache. The specific epithet bonus­-henricus derives from the Central-European heathen fairy ‘Guter Heinrich’, rather than from the King of England.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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