Chenopodium album is a fast-growing weedy annual plant in the genus Chenopodium. The standard English name is Fat-hen; other names include white goosefoot, lamb's quarters, pigweed or dungweed, or more ambiguously as just goosefoot.
It tends to grow upright at first, reaching heights of 10-150 cm (rarely to 3 m), but typically becomes recumbent after flowering (due to the weight of the foliage and seeds) unless supported by other plants. The leaves are alternate and can be varied in appearance. The first leaves, near the base of the plant, are toothed and roughly diamond-shaped, 3-7 cm long and 3-6 cm broad. The leaves on the upper part of the flowering stems are entire and lanceolate-rhomboid, 1-5 cm long and 0.4-2 cm broad; they are waxy-coated, unwettable and mealy in appearance, with a whitish coat on the underside. The small flowers are radially symmetrical and grow in small cymes on a dense branched inflorescence 10-40 cm long.
Published names and synonyms include C. album var. microphyllum, C. album var. stevensii, C. acerifolium, C. centrorubrum, C. giganteum, C. jenissejense, C. lanceolatum, C. pedunculare and C. probstii.
Archaeologists analysing carbonized plant remains found in storage pits and ovens at Iron Age and Roman sites in Europe have found its seeds mixed with conventional grains and even inside the stomachs of Danish bog bodies. It remains arguable whether the weed was included in the diet deliberately.
As the common names suggest, it is also used as food (both the leaves and the seeds) for chickens, hens and other poultry. However, the nitrates in the plant can be converted very efficiently to nitrites in the rumen of cattle, leading to changes in haemoglobin and reducing the ruminants' oxygen binding capacity.
... the old man had a youthful countenance, and was carrying a walking stick fashioned from the hardened stalk of a goosefoot (Chenopodium album) plant. (Wikisource translation)
It is one of the more competitive weeds, capable of producing crop losses of up to 13% in corn, 25% in soybeans, and 48% in sugar beets at an average plant distribution. It may be controlled by dark tillage, rotary hoeing, or flaming when the plants are small. Crop rotation of small grains will suppress an infestation. It is difficult to control with chemical means. Its pollen can contribute to hayfever-like allergies.