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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Kochia  (Kochia scoparia)

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Life stages of Kochia seedling flower head mature plant seeds leaves

Kochia is an erect summer annual broadleaf plant that is difficult to differentiate from fivehook bassia, Bassia hyssopifolia.  In California it is found in the Central Valley, San Francisco Bay region, Central Coast, South Coast, Mojave and Sonoran deserts, and the Great Basin to about 4900 feet (1500 m). Kochia inhabits agricultural land and other disturbed areas. Although it can provide good livestock forage in modest amounts, its leaves contain saponins and small amounts of oxalates and nitrates, which can be toxic to livestock.


Roadsides, fields, disturbed places, crop fields (especially newly planted), ditch margins, and seasonal wetlands.


Seedlings are indistinguishable from fivehook bassia seedlings. They emerge in spring and have thick, dull green leaves with magenta undersides. The hairless cotyledons (seed leaves) range from linear to narrowly lance shaped. Later leaves are narrowly lance shaped, gray green, and covered with long, soft, white hairs.

Young plant

The young plant forms a small rosette.

Mature plant

Mature kochia grows from 2 to 5 feet (60–150 cm) tall and is usually branched from the base, compared to fivehook bassia, which branches along the main stem. Leaves are mostly linear to lance shaped, flat, generally gray green, usually covered with soft hairs (kochia is less hairy than fivehook bassia), have smooth edges, and are alternate to one another along the stem. They range from 1/5 to 2-2/5 inches (5–60 mm) long and from 1/25 to 2/5 of an inch (1–10 mm) wide. Stems are sometimes reddish late in the season.


Flowers bloom from July through October. The flower head is a spike. It is formed by clusters of inconspicuous, green, petal-less, stalkless flowers that grow in the axils of reduced leaves. The axil is where the leaf base meets the stem.


Generally fruits have knoblike lobes or short horizontal wings.


Seeds are egg shaped, flattened, and roughly 1/25 to 1/12 of an inch (1–2 mm).


Reproduces by seed.

Related or similar plants

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