1. Family: Amaranthaceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Beta L.
      1. Beta vulgaris L.

        Evidence suggests that Beta vulgaris has been cultivated since the 1st century AD, over which time a diverse range of forms have been developed. These include sugar beet, which is a major agricultural crop, providing about 30% of the world's sugar. Fodder beet cultivars are also an important source of cattle-feed.

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    Evidence suggests that Beta vulgaris has been cultivated since the 1st century AD, over which time a diverse range of forms have been developed. These include sugar beet, which is a major agricultural crop, providing about 30% of the world's sugar. Fodder beet cultivars are also an important source of cattle-feed.

    Beta vulgaris is a member of the amaranth and goosefoot family (Amaranthaceae), which also includes spinach (Spinacia oleracea) and quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa). The generic name Beta derives from the Celtic bett meaning red. 

    Beetroot was used medicinally in Ancient Rome and is used in the herbal treatment of cancer today. It contains high concentrations of red betalains (anti-oxidants), vitamin C, tyrosine, iron and folic acid. Some individuals are unable to metabolize red betanin, leading to the production of red urine (known as beeturia).

    Species Profile
    Cultivar groups

    There are considered to be four major cultivar groups of Beta vulgaris :

    Garden beet group (beetroot) Leaf beet group (rhubarb chard, spinach beet, Swiss chard, silver beet) Sugar beet group (sugar beet) Fodder beet group (mangel-wurzel, mangold) Geography and distribution

    Beta vulgaris subspecies maritima (sea beet) grows wild along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of Europe, where it is found near the sea shore, particularly in heavy alluvial soils and clays at disturbed sites.

    Cultivars of Beta vulgaris are grown throughout Europe and North America.

    Description

    Overview: A polymorphic biennial (flowering in the second year of growth), up to 2 m tall when in flower.

    Leaves: Basal leaves forming a rosette.

    Flowers: Small, green, borne in clusters subtended by bracts, forming dense, usually branched inflorescences. Each flower contains two stigmas (female parts).

    Fruits and seeds: 'Seeds' are actually fruits that are attached to each other and enveloped in a woody covering (calyces). 

    Leaf beet cultivar group (rhubarb chard, spinach beet, Swiss chard, silver beet) - root not usually swollen, leaf midrib of some cultivars dark orange or scarlet, lamina sometimes puckered.

    Garden and fodder beet groups (beetroot, mangel-wurzel, mangold) - hypocotyl (area just above the root) swollen, plant often flushed red-purple or yellow-white but lamina and inflorescence axis usually green.

    Sugar beet - whitish, conical 'roots', up to 50 cm long.

    Beta vulgaris subspecies maritima (sea beet) - stem to 80 cm tall, root not swollen, leaves to 10 cm long, flowers in clusters of 1-3.

    Uses Food and drink (sugar, root vegetable, leafy vegetable)

    Sugar beet is a major agricultural crop throughout Europe and North America, and the most important source of sugar in temperate countries. Sugar beet 'roots' contain up to 20% sugar by weight and have been used for commercial sugar extraction since 1801.

    Beetroot is a popular vegetable, eaten boiled, pickled, or grated raw for salads. It is the main ingredient of borscht, a soup of Ukrainian origin. Beetroot juice is marketed as a healthy drink, alone or mixed with other juices.

    Spinach beet is cultivated for its succulent leaves, which are similar in flavour to spinach and used in the same way. Cultivars known by the common names seakale-beet, chard, swiss chard and rhubarb chard differ mainly in having a broad, white leaf stalk, which is often eaten as a separate vegetable, while the green blade is used like spinach. Cultivars with reddish-purple, yellow or orange leaf-stalks and blades are available.

    Sea beet leaves are one of the most popular wild vegetables in Britain, where the tangy leaves are cooked like spinach.

    Livestock feed

    Cultivars from the fodder beet group, known by common names such as mangel-wurzel and mangold, are grown specifically as cattle feed. The UK record for the largest recorded 'root' (actually a swollen hypocotyl) is 24.72 kg.

    The leafy tops of sugar beet are a good animal feed, as are the root residue and molasses produced during sugar extraction.

    Other uses

    Molasses produced during the extraction of sugar from sugar beet is used to make industrial alcohol. Filter cake, the residue left behind after the purification of sugar beet juice, is used as manure. Beetroot is used as a natural dye. Sugar beet roots have been proposed as a potential biofuel.

    The flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG) is sometimes produced by bacterial fermentation using carbohydrates from sugar beet molasses.

    Cultivars such as Beta vulgaris 'Dracaenofolia', which has narrow, deep scarlet leaves, are grown as ornamentals.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    More than 80 collections of Beta vulgaris seeds are held in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

    This species at Kew

    Beta vulgaris can be seen growing in the Queen's Garden (behind Kew Palace) at Kew.

    Dried specimens of Beta vulgaris are held in Kew's Herbarium where they are available to researchers by appointment. Details of specimens of other Beta species can be seen online in Kew's Herbarium Catalogue.

    Specimens of beet seeds, briquettes, pulp and pellets, as well as sugar, paper and insulating boards made from it, are held in Kew's Economic Botany Collection in the Sir Joseph Banks Building, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

    Distribution
    Belgium, France, United Kingdom
    Ecology
    Coastal.
    Conservation
    Widespread in cultivation.
    Hazards

    None known.

    [KSP]
    Use
    Food and drink, livestock-feed, traditional medicine.

    Images

    Distribution

    Native to:

    Albania, Algeria, Azores, Baleares, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Is., Corse, Denmark, East Aegean Is., Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Gulf States, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Kriti, Krym, Libya, Morocco, Netherlands, Northwest European R, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Portugal, Sardegna, Saudi Arabia, Sicilia, Sinai, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey-in-Europe, Yugoslavia

    Introduced into:

    Alabama, Argentina Northeast, Argentina Northwest, Argentina South, Bangladesh, California, Cameroon, Cape Provinces, Cayman Is., Chile Central, Chile North, Connecticut, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Honduras, Juan Fernández Is., Korea, Madeira, Maine, Masachusettes, Mexico Northwest, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, New Zealand North, New Zealand South, North Carolina, North European Russi, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode I., South Carolina, Sudan, Uruguay, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Western Sahara

    Common Names

    English
    Beet

    Beta vulgaris L. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
    Calizzi, K. [32103], Iraq K000731826
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 6948] Beta bengalensis K001126327
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 6948] Beta bengalensis K001126328
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 6948], India Beta bengalensis K001126329
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 6948] Beta bengalensis K001126330

    First published in Sp. Pl.: 222 (1753)

    Accepted by

    • Gilman, A.V. (2015). New flora of Vermont Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 110: 1-614.
    • Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015). The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan: 1-400. Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Cossu, T.A, Camarda, I. & Brundu, G. (2014). A catalogue of non-native weeds in irrigated crops in Sardinia (Italy) Webbia; Raccolta de Scritti Botanici 69: 145-156.
    • Chang, C.S., Kim, H. & Chang, K.S. (2014). Provisional checklist of vascular plants for the Korea peninsula flora (KPF): 1-660. DESIGNPOST.
    • Garcillán, P.P. & al. (2013). Plantas no nativas naturalizadas de la península de Baja California, México Botanical Sciences 91: 461-475.
    • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
    • Singh, A. (2012). Exotic flora of the Chandauli district Uttar Pradesh, India: an overview Indian Journal of Forestry 35: 79-84.
    • Vladimirov, V., Dane, F., Matevski, V. & Kit Tan (2012). New floristic records in the Balkans: 18 Phytologia Balcanica 18: 69-92.
    • Danihelka, J. Chrtek, J. & Kaplan, Z. (2012). Checklist of vascular plants of the Czech Republic Preslia. Casopsi Ceské Botanické Spolecnosti 84: 647-811.
    • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
    • Llewellyn, O.A., Hall, M., Miller, A.G., Al-Abbasi, T.M., Al-Wetaid, A.H., Al-Harbi, R.J. & Al-Shammari, K.F. (2011). Important plant areas in the Arabian peninsula: 4. Jabal Aja Edinburgh Journal of Botany 68: 199-224.
    • Dobignard, A. & Chatelain, C. (2011). Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du nord 2: 1-429. Éditions des conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève.
    • Authier, P. & Covillot, J. (2011). Catalogue actualisé des plantes de l'île de Rhodes (Grèce) Saussurea; Travaux de la Société Botanique de Genève 41: 131-170.
    • Onana, J.M. (2011). The vascular plants of Cameroon a taxonomic checklist with IUCN assessments: 1-195. National herbarium of Cameroon, Yaoundé.
    • Nelson Sutherland, C.H. (2008). Catálogo de las plantes vasculares de Honduras. Espermatofitas: 1-1576. SERNA/Guaymuras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
    • Germishuizen, G. & Meyer, N.L. (eds.) (2003). Plants of Southern Africa an annotated checklist Strelitzia 14: 1-1231. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
    • Flora of North America Editorial Committee (2003). Flora of North America North of Mexico 4: 1-559. Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford.
    • Edwards, S., Tadesse, M., Demissew, S. & Hedberg, I. (eds.) (2000). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea 2(1): 1-532. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia & The Department of Systematic Botany, Upps.
    • Jørgensen, P.M. & León-Yánez, S. (eds.) (1999). Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Ecuador Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 75: i-viii, 1-1181. Missouri Botanical Garden.
    • Govaerts, R. (1996). World Checklist of Seed Plants 2(1, 2): 1-492. MIM, Deurne.
    • Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1993). Flora Europaea ed. 2, 1: 1-581. Cambridge University Press.

    Literature

    Kew Species Profiles
    • Vaughan, J. G. & Geissler, C. A. (2009). The New Oxford Book of Food Plants. 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
    • Mabberley, D. J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses. 3rd edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
    • Huxley, A., Griffiths, M. & Levy, M. (eds) (1999). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening. Volume 1 (A to C). Macmillan Reference, London.
    • Mabey, R. (1997). Flora Britannica. Chatto & Windus, London.
    • Letschert, J. P. W. & Frese, L. (1993). Analysis of morphological variation in wild beet ( Beta vulgaris L.) from Sicily. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 40: 15–24.
    Kew Backbone Distributions
    • Gilman, A.V. (2015). New flora of Vermont Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 110: 1-614.
    • Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015). The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan: 1-400. Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Chang, C.S., Kim, H. & Chang, K.S. (2014). Provisional checklist of vascular plants for the Korea peninsula flora (KPF): 1-660. DESIGNPOST.
    • Garcillán, P.P. & al. (2013). Plantas no nativas naturalizadas de la península de Baja California, México Botanical Sciences 91: 461-475.
    • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
    • Danihelka, J. Chrtek, J. & Kaplan, Z. (2012). Checklist of vascular plants of the Czech Republic Preslia. Casopsi Ceské Botanické Spolecnosti 84: 647-811.
    • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
    • Dobignard, A. & Chatelain, C. (2011). Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du nord 2: 1-429. Éditions des conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève.
    • Authier, P. & Covillot, J. (2011). Catalogue actualisé des plantes de l'île de Rhodes (Grèce) Saussurea; Travaux de la Société Botanique de Genève 41: 131-170.
    • Onana, J.M. (2011). The vascular plants of Cameroon a taxonomic checklist with IUCN assessments: 1-195. National herbarium of Cameroon, Yaoundé.
    • Greuter, W. & Raus, T. (eds.) (2010). Med-Checklist Notulae, 29 Willdenowia 40: 189-204.
    • Kravchenko, A.V., Timofeeva, V.V., Rudkocskaya, O.A. & Fadeeva, M.A. (2008). Vascular plant species new and rare to Karelia Botanicheskii Zhurnal. Moscow & Leningrad 94: 776-788.
    • Zuloaga, F.O., Morrone, O. , Belgrano, M.J., Marticorena, C. & Marchesi, E. (eds.) (2008). Catálogo de las Plantas Vasculares del Cono Sur Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 107: 1-3348. Missouri Botanical Garden.
    • Nelson Sutherland, C.H. (2008). Catálogo de las plantes vasculares de Honduras. Espermatofitas: 1-1576. SERNA/Guaymuras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
    • Germishuizen, G. & Meyer, N.L. (eds.) (2003). Plants of Southern Africa an annotated checklist Strelitzia 14: 1-1231. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
    • Flora of North America Editorial Committee (2003). Flora of North America North of Mexico 4: 1-559. Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford.
    • Edwards, S., Tadesse, M., Demissew, S. & Hedberg, I. (eds.) (2000). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea 2(1): 1-532. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia & The Department of Systematic Botany, Upps.
    • Jørgensen, P.M. & León-Yánez, S. (eds.) (1999). Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Ecuador Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 75: i-viii, 1-1181. Missouri Botanical Garden.
    • Boulos, L. (1999). Flora of Egypt 1: 1-419. Al Hadara Publishing, Cairo.
    • Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1993). Flora Europaea ed. 2, 1: 1-581. Cambridge University Press.

    Sources

    Art and Illustrations in Digifolia
    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

    Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
    'The Herbarium Catalogue, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet http://www.kew.org/herbcat [accessed on Day Month Year]'. Please enter the date on which you consulted the system.
    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

    Kew Backbone Distributions
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2018. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2018. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0