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Nature Weekly
Short Notes on Nature Singapore

8 November 2020 | Amaranthus Species | Amaranth |

In the local supermarkets, the vegetable labelled as Red Spinach, Sharp Spinach, Round Spinach and Baby Spinach are all Amaranthus species. The Red Spinach has shade of maroon colour on its leaves as well as the lower portion of the stem. As leafy vegetables, they are harvested before they start to bear flowers.

In the wild here, there existed two Amaranthus species, namely Amaranthus blitum subsp. oleraceus (Livid Amaranth) and Amaranthus spinosus (Spiny Amaranth) according to the listing in the 2009 Flora Checklist of Singapore with the common one being the Livid Amaranth. I had yet to see a Spiny Amaranth. In NParks' Flora Fauna Web website, there were pictures of 4 Amaranthus species as of today. Three of them were different form of Amaranthus tricolor (Chinese Spinach) and the last one was Amaranthus cruentus. All 4 were not available in the wild.

Livid Amaranth is one of the 3 accepted subspecies of Amaranthus blitum, also known commonly as Pigweed or Purple Amaranth. The tip of its leaf has a shallow notch while its seeds are described round, compressed, dark brown to black in colour. The subspecies is a resident in my pots at this time. Similar to its supermarket's counterparts, it is edible.

Livid Amaranth:

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In July, I got hold of a pack of leafy vegetable seeds labelled as Green Round Amaranth (圆叶苋菜). The species name was not mentioned. After growing the plant, I deduced that the “Green Round” likely referred to the colour and shape of the leaves. I believe this is the green form of Amaranthus tricolor showed in NParks' Flora Fauna Web and labelled as Round Spinach on the shelf of local supermarkets.

Green Round Amaranth:

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Since I had the wild Livid Amaranth in my pot, I was able to do a visual comparison of both plants. There were 2 distinct differences. Firstly, the Green Round Amaranth has a much larger, rounded and longer leaf, a length of about 20 centimetres from leaf axil to leaf tip. Secondly, the stem of Green Round Amaranth stays green all the time while that of Livid Amaranth is usually maroon colour.

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