What is Bassia?

Sonal Panse
Sonal Panse
Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Bassia is a group of densely branched and sessile leaved shrubs that belong to the goosefoot or Amaranthaceae family. These types of plants are originally from Eurasia, and have since managed to make their way around the world either in the form of ornamental garden annuals and perennials, or naturalized plants that are more or less looked upon as weeds. Two examples of the latter would be the specimens occurring in Hawaii and along roadsides in North America.

Most Bassia plants have multiple stems that start right from the bottom of the plant and may either grow straight up or parallel to the ground. The narrow leaves can be succulent or hairlike, and may usually change color in the fall. Flowering takes place in summer and in fall, and the flowers are produced in clusters on spikes. Bassia fruits are of the small, dry type, and contain lenticular seeds.

The propagation of these plants is carried out by seed. The plants are quite hardy and are capable of growing in all kinds of habitats. They can generally be left to their own devices, without requiring any particular degree of maintenance.

A popular Bassia shrub for gardens is the Bassia scoparia or the Belvedere cypress. This shrub is generally grown as a hedge and its dense foliage takes on a bright reddish hue in the fall. Due to this vivid color display, it is also known as firebush or burning bush.

While Bassia plants can certainly make for attractive garden additions, it is necessary to know that they are toxic in nature and are generally considered hazardous to livestock and other animals. It is important, therefore, to not plant these shrubs in areas that are easily accessible to or frequented by animals. The plant toxin does not have the same harmful effect on humans, fortunately, although, of course, it is advisable not to eat the fruits or ingest the leaves.

Another issue with Bassia plants involves the chemical attacks that they tend to unleash on the surrounding plant life. The chemicals produced by the plant can either kill off or stunt the growth of other plants. While this sort of botanical warfare may give the Bassia plants an edge in getting growing space and available soil nutrients, it certainly won't work wonders for the state of the garden. It may help to plant these shrubs in separate corners or along the edges of the garden.

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      Man mowing the grass