Bassia scoparia; Bassia sieversiana; Kochia alata; Kochia trichophila; Kochia trichophylla; burningbush; Mexican fireweed; mock cypress; fireweed; mirabel; summer cypress; common kochia; Mexican summer-cypress; railroad weed; belvedere; firebush; poor man’s alfalfa; common red sage.
Wildlife and Livestock: During early stages of growth, Kochia scoparia is palatable and has high forage value for all classes of livestock and can be hayed or grazed (Everitt et al., 1983; Stubbendieck et al., 2003).
Kochia provides cover and the seeds are used as food by both songbirds and upland game birds. The large quantity of high protein seed makes kochia valuable for poultry feed. Kochia is also eaten by deer and pronghorn
Erosion Control and Bioremediation: Kochia can be used for control of soil erosion. Undersander et al. (1990) indicated that it is able to survive in a variety of harsh soil conditions, including sandy and alkaline soils. Kochia scoparia is drought, salinity, and grasshopper tolerant and is able to grow in areas with very thin topsoil (Friesen et al., 2009). It is especially suited to arid to semi-arid regions (Friesen et al., 2009). It has the ability to germinate and grow at anytime during the growing season and will provide quick groundcover to protect the topsoil. For large inaccessible areas it can be sown using airplanes, making it ideal for revegetation after a fire.
Kochia has been shown to bioaccumulate cesium-137 (Lasat et al., 1997) and may be able to be used for remediation of hydrocarbon contaminated soil (Robson et al., 2004).
Ethnobotanic: Kochia scoparia has been used in Chinese and Korean folk medicine as treatment for skin diseases, diabetes, mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, liver disorders, and jaundice (Kim et al., 2005; Choi et al., 2002). In Japan and China the fresh fruit is used as a food garnish on some dishes (Yoshikawa et al., 1997) and the seeds are ground into flour (Usher, 1974). In China, Russia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, and Italy kochia is planted for making brooms (Zimdahal, 1989; Shu, 2003; Nedelcheva et al., 2007; Friesen et al., 2009).
Kochia seeds contain an oviposition pheromone that can be added as an attractant for mosquito pesticides (Friesen et al., 2009; Whitney et al., 2004). The seeds of kochia have also been shown to contain other chemicals that could have beneficial human uses, such as compounds that could be use to treat ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis, and some human pathogenic bacteria (Friesen et al., 2009; Goyal and Gupta, 1988; Borrelli and Izzo, 2000).
Kochia scoparia is grown as an ornamental due to its dense and conical shape as well as its bright red color in the fall (Undersander et al., 1990).
This plant is or can be noxious and/or invasive in some areas. Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e.g., threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values).
Seeds and Plant Production:
Germination is possible when the top 1-1.5 inches of the soil become frost free and the soil temperature reaches 50°F (10°C) (Becker, 1978; Undersander et al., 1990). Viability of kochia seed is greatly reduced 1-2 years after production, with germination rates shown to be only 5% after one year and 1% after three years, thus preventing persistent seed banks of kochia seed (Friesen et al., 2009).
Seed production is highly variable and depends on the conditions and the competition that the plant endures (Friesen et al., 2009). Stallings et al. (1995) observed that field grown kochia can produce anywhere from 2,000 to 30,000 seeds per plant. Mature seed is not dormant and can germinate immediately under suitable conditions (Friesen et al., 2009). Seed can be harvested using a combine (Undersander et al., 1990). Kochia reproduces solely from seed and has no means or structures for vegetative reproduction (Friesen et al., 2009).
Seedlings of kochia can tolerate frost (Eberlein and Fore, 1984), but mature plants may not be able to produce viable seed in regions with a short frost free growing season (Friesen et al., 2009).