Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)

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Chenopodium quinoa
Willd., Chenopodiaceae
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Present on Pacific Islands?  no

Primarily a threat at high elevations?  no

Risk assessment results:  Evaluate, score: 5 (Go to the risk assessment).

Common name(s): [more details]

English: Inca rice, Peruvian rice, kinoa, petty rice, quinoa, quinua, red Aztec spinach, sweet quinoa, white quinoa

French: ansérine quinoa, petit riz, petit riz de Pérou, quinoa, riz du Pérou

Japanese: kinoa

Spanish: arrocillo, arroz del Perú, canihua, kinoa, quínoa, quínua, quingua, quinqua, trigo inca, trigrillo

Habit:  herb

Description:  "Quinoa is an annual, broad-leaved, dicotyledonous herb usually standing about 1-2 m high. The woody central stem carries alternate leaves, generally pubescent, powdery, smooth (rarely) to lobed; it may be either branched or unbranched, depending on variety and sowing density, and may be green, red, or purple. The branching taproot, normally 20-25 cm long, forms a dense web of rootlets that penetrate to about the same depth as the height of the plant. The leafy flower clusters (panicles) arise predominantly from the top of the plant and also from leaf junctions (axils) on the stem. The panicles have a central axis from which a secondary axis emerges, either with flowers (amaranthiform), or bearing a tertiary axis carrying the flowers (glomeruliform). The small, clustered flowers have no petals. They are generally bisexual and self-fertilizing. The dry, seedlike fruit is an achene about 2 mm in diameter (250-500 seeds per g), enclosed in the dryish, persistent calyx (perigonium) that is the same color as the plant. A hard, shiny, four-layered fruit wall (pericarp) encloses each "seed" and contains 0-6 percent bitter saponins. The seed is usually somewhat flat, and is normally pale yellow, but may vary from almost white through pink, orange, or red to brown and black. The embryo can be up to 60 percent of the seed weight. It forms a ring around the endosperm that loosens when the seed is cooked"  (National Research Council, 1989; pp. 159-160).

"A coarse, erect annual, frequently 1 meter high or more, sparsely and finely mealy, green or somewhat purplish (f . purpureum); leaves slender-petiolate, the blades large, broadly rhombic, sinuate-dentate, sometimes obscurely lobate at the base; inflorescences erect, leafy, very dense and compact; seeds whitish, about 1.5 mm. broad"  (McBride, 1937; 13(2/2):475-476).

Habitat/ecology:  "This plant is highly variable. There is no one quinoa, and this rustic crop is more or less a complex of subspecies, varieties, and landraces. However, the following are its general environmental tolerances"
Daylength. Quinoa shows various photoperiod responses, from short-day requirements (for flowering) near the equator to no response in Chile.
Rainfall. 300-1,000 mm. Rainfall conditions vary greatly with variety and country of origin. Southern Chilean varieties get much rain, altiplano varieties get little. As with any grain crop, quinoa grows best with well-distributed rainfall during early growth and dry conditions during maturation and harvest. It can withstand excessive amounts of rainfall during early growth and development; on the other hand, it is notable for its drought tolerance, especially during late growth and seed maturation.
Altitude. Quinoa ranges from sea level in Chile (36°S) and coastal Peru to over 4,000 m in the Andes near the equator. It is grown mainly, however, between 2,500 and 4,000 m.
Low Temperature. Quinoa tolerates a wide range of temperatures. The plant is normally unaffected by light frost (-1°C) at any stage of development, except during flowering. Quinoa flowers are sensitive to frost (the pollen is sterilized), so mid-summer frosts (which do happen in the high Andes) can destroy the crop. Although temperatures below -1°C damage most types, some hardy types withstand even lower temperatures.
High Temperature. The plant tolerates but does not thrive in temperatures above 35°C.
Soil Type. Quinoa can grow in a wide range of soil acidities, from pH 6 to pH 8.5. It tolerates infertility, moderate salinity, and low base-saturation levels"  (National Research Council, 1989; pp. 159-160).

Propagation:  Seed

Native range:  Western South America and Argentina; also cultivated (GRIN).


Pacific Rim
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Australia (continental)
Australia (continental) introduced
Randall, R. P. (2007) (p. 112)
South America (Pacific rim)
South America (Pacific rim)
Chile (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
South America (Pacific rim)
South America (Pacific rim)
Colombia native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
South America (Pacific rim)
South America (Pacific rim)
Ecuador (Republic of) (continental) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
South America (Pacific rim)
South America (Pacific rim)
Perú (Republic of) native
Macbride, J. Francis (1936) (pp. 13(2/2):475-476)

Control:  If you know of control methods for Chenopodium quinoa, please let us know.

Need more info? Have questions? Comments? Information to contribute? Contact PIER! (

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This page was created on 14 DEC 2012 and was last updated on 10 MAR 2013.