Species Profile

Smooth Goosefoot

Scientific Name: Chenopodium subglabrum
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
COSEWIC Range: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: April 2006
COSEWIC Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status Criteria: Met criteria for Endangered, B2b(iii)c(iv), but designated Threatened due to a large number of sites scattered over a large area. Criteria met for Threatened: B2b(iii)c(iv).
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: An herbaceous annual with fluctuating populations of relatively small size. The species is restricted to areas of active sand habitats in southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Current risks to the species include sand dune stabilization, invasive species, oil and gas development and recreational activities.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in April 1992. Status re-examined and designated Threatened in April 2006.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2007-12-13

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Image of Smooth Goosefoot

Smooth Goosefoot Photo 1



Smooth Goosefoot is a shallow-rooted, erect annual measuring 20 to 80 cm in height, with ascending branched stems. The light green leaves are alternate, fleshy, single-veined and almost hairless. The long, narrow, leaves are 1 to 3 cm in length and 1 to 2 mm in width on average. The small greenish or reddish flowers are produced in widely spaced small rounded clusters. They produce dry fruits, or achenes, that are yellow to light brown. Each achene contains a single shiny, black, lens-shaped seed that is 1.2 to 1.6 mm in diameter.   In the past, Smooth Goosefoot was considered a variety of the Narrow-leaved Goosefoot, but the Smooth Goosefoot can be distinguished by its hairless nature and its seeds that measure over 1 mm in width.


Distribution and Population

Smooth Goosefoot is found in North America, from the southern Prairie provinces of Canada to Utah and Colorado, and from Washington State and Nevada to the Dakotas, Nebraska and Iowa, in the United States. In Canada, Smooth Goosefoot is found in southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan and Manitoba.   In Alberta, the species is represented by nine widely scattered populations, occurring within six different sand hill areas: Grassy Lake, Middle Sand Hills, Rolling Hills Lake, Dominion, Medicine Lodge Coulee and Pakowki Lake.   In Saskatchewan, the species occurs from Saskatoon south to Piapot, and from the Alberta border east to Caron. Historically, there were 12 populations in the dunes of Dundurn, Birsay, Elbow, Pelican Lake, McMahon, Cramersburg, Broderick, Burstall and Piapot.   In Manitoba, the species is recorded at Oak Lake in the Routledge Sand Hills and the Spruce Woods Provincial Park in the Brandon Sand Hills. These two sites are considered to be isolated since there are no known populations or suitable habitats in eastern Saskatchewan.   Although new populations of Smooth Goosefoot were discovered in Saskatchewan in 2004, four populations along the South Saskatchewan River and one in a sandy area where the sand hills are mostly covered in vegetation are likely no longer extant.     In 2004, there was a significant increase in the number of Smooth Goosefoot in Saskatchewan, probably triggered by the abundant late summer precipitation. A few thousand plants were observed in Saskatchewan in 1997 and 1998, but in 2004 the population was estimated to be 8400. The total Alberta population in the late 1980s was several hundred. At the Dominion Sand Hills site, fewer than five plants were seen in 1987, but there were at least 40 in 2004. In Manitoba’s Routledge Sand Hills in 2004, plants were observed for the first time in 45 years. It is not known whether a population boom occurred at sites other than in Saskatchewan in 2004, but given similar climate conditions all over the prairies, it seems likely.   Because this is an annual plant, population size fluctuates widely in response to climatic conditions. However, even though plants may not be growing at a site in a given year, seeds are likely present in the seed bank; this makes the overall Canadian population trend difficult to determine. The 2006 estimated population in Canada was likely between 5 200 and 10 000 individuals.



In Canada, Smooth Goosefoot inhabits unstable sand areas. This species is one of the first plants to colonize active (i.e. moving) sand dunes and plays a role in dune stabilization, a process caused by vegetation colonization. It is commonly found on the stabilizing edges of active (moving) dunes and occasionally on bare or recently disturbed sand plains, where it generally grows on south- or west-facing actively eroding slopes. It has also been found on river sand bars and sandy floodplain terraces. Populations are highest in areas of finer and more compacted sand. The species rarely grows in very active sand away from the stabilization zone. Many plants are often associated with Smooth Goosefoot, mostly species of sand-berry, sagebrush and juniper.   Dynamic factors such as grazing, erosion and fire may aid in destabilizing sand, resulting in more habitat for Smooth Goosefoot.



Very little information exists on the biology of Smooth Goosefoot. It is an annual species that reproduces sexually using seeds. Flowering occurs from June to August and seed production, in August and September. In Canada, the species produces fruit and seed at most sites. The seeds may remain viable for many years, waiting for the moist conditions to favour germination. Although studies on seed germination have not been conducted for this species, the abundance of goosefoot observed in Saskatchewan in 2004, coupled with the observation that the summer was unusually humid and cool, suggests that maximum seed germination occurs under moist conditions.   Although no studies on the pollination of Smooth Goosefoot have been performed, other species in this genus are self-pollinating, that is, their flowers are pollinated by their own pollen. The wind is responsible for the transport of pollen.   Like all plants that grow in dry, salty areas, Smooth Goosefoot is able to physically adapt in order to survive both excess salt in groundwater and the low amount of available water. Since this species is able to colonize shifting sand, it plays a role in dune stabilization. At several sites in Alberta and Saskatchewan, there were specimens of Smooth Goosefoot that had been grazed. Grazing may have been by cattle or wildlife. Grazing causes some plants to produce side shoots.   The achenes and seeds of Smooth Goosefoot lack structures that would aid in dispersal by wind (i.e. hairs) or animals (i.e. burs or fleshy fruits). The fruit likely fall close to the parent plant and may be buried by shifting sand. Smooth Goosefoot has seeds that can remain dormant until suitable conditions for germination occur, as is typical of several rare annuals in the prairies. The seeds are food sources for small rodents, such as the Ord’s Kangaroo Rat, a species at risk nationally.



There has been considerable loss of habitat throughout this species' range as a result of dune stabilization. The progressive stabilization of sand dunes caused by vegetation colonization is considered a serious threat to all populations of Smooth Goosefoot in Canada.   In addition to loss of habitat, the species is also threatened by competing exotic plants. Indeed, invasive exotic weeds are observed at several sites across the species' range and are threatening to invade its habitat. For example, the dune slack at the Barnwell, Alberta, site is being invaded by Crested Wheat Grass and different species of White Sweetclover.   Grazing, perhaps by both cattle and wildlife, is a threat to certain populations. The large tracts of uncultivated grassland east of the mountains are mostly grazed by livestock. Recent research suggests that grass-fire control and grazing may have an impact on dune stabilization. Indeed, a combination of fire and grazing during appropriate seasons helps keep dunes active.   Fire control is also another factor threatening the survival of the species. In the past, fire, both natural and human-caused, played a major role in maintaining grasslands by slowing the succession of many trees and shrubs, while ensuring a continuous supply of safe sites for the germination and establishment of herbaceous meadow plants, including Smooth Goosefoot.   Oil and gas development is rapidly expanding in the sand hill complexes of Saskatchewan. Oil extraction infrastructure appeared adjacent to the Routledge Sand Hills in Manitoba as well. This type of activity potentially harms the species due to sand dune destruction or possible oil or gas spills.   Recreational activities in active dune areas may result in the loss of some Smooth Goosefoot plants. Some dunes are used for intense recreational activities, such as horseback riding, all-terrain vehicle driving, and hiking. These activities cause loss of vegetation and disturb the soil.



Federal Protection

The Smooth Goosefoot is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Smooth Goosefoot (Chenopodium subglabrum) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Prairie Plant Species at Risk Recovery Team

  • Candace Neufeld - Chair/Contact - Environment Canada
    Phone: 306-975-4101  Send Email



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

9 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the smooth goosefoot Chenopodium subglabrum in Canada (2006-08-30)

    Smooth goosefoot (Chenopodium subglabrum) is a member of the Chenopodiaceae or goosefoot family. It is a shallow-rooted annual with many ascending, branched stems, 2-8 dm tall. Leaves are alternate, linear, entire, fleshy, one-veined and glabrous (i.e. hairless) or nearly so. The inflorescence is open and leafy with the small, greenish-reddish flowers produced in widely spaced small rounded clusters called glomerules. The calyx (i.e. sepal) lobes are keeled and cover the fruit. There are 2-5 stamens and 2 stigmas. The thin-walled fruit contains one lens-shaped seed that is black and shiny.

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Smooth Goosefoot (2006-11-29)

    An herbaceous annual with fluctuating populations of relatively small size. The species is restricted to areas of active sand habitats in southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Current risks to the species include sand dune stabilization, invasive species, oil and gas development and recreational activities.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Smooth Goosefoot (Chenopodium subglabrum) in Canada (2015-12-30)

    The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister under SARA for the Smooth Goosefoot and has prepared this strategy, as per section 37 of SARA. It has been prepared to the extent possible in cooperation with: provincial jurisdictions in which the species occurs (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia), and federal land managers (Canadian Forces Base Suffield under the Department of National Defence and the Agri-Environment Services Branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada).


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2007) (2007-05-16)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of 40 species done pursuant to paragraph 15(1)(a) and in accordance with subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 141, number 26, December 13, 2007) (2007-12-26)

    Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2006 (2006-08-30)

    2006 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act Terrestrial Species: December 2006 (2006-12-28)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list. Please submit your comments by March 16, 2007 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 14, 2008 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update December 2, 2021
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