Centennial Museum gecko logo

Desert Diary


Palmer's Amaranth, also known as Careless Weed, is common in the Chihuahuan Desert and usually thought of as a useless producer of hay fever. Disturbed ground, particularly where a little extra moisture collects, such as in gardens and along arroyos, may support extensive stands. It's allergenic properties presumably stem from a combination of pollination by wind-borne pollen and its commonness.

In a way, it's a pity that it has this reputation, for this species, along with many others of the genus Amaranthus, was long an important crop in the Americas. Yellow and green dyes can be produced from the plant, and its leaves may be eaten as greens; indeed, the common name of many species includes the word "spinach". In addition, amaranth seed was an important and highly nutritious, cereal-like crop among many Native American groups. Some amaranths are still grown for food, and agricultural research is ongoing with the aim of making it a cash crop. So, next time you hear someone cussing the plant for its hay fever potential, remember—it's not really something to be sneezed at!
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.



Moerman. D. 1998. Native American Ethnobotany. Timber Press, Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9.

Web Resources

Amaranthus. Listing of common names, species, and a number of links to more information.

Grain Amaranth.