Beta vulgaris (beet) is a plant in the Chenopodiaceae family (which is now included in Betoideae subfamily). It has numerous cultivated varieties, the most well known of which is the root vegetable known as the beetroot or garden beet. Other cultivated varieties include the leaf vegetable chard; the sugar beet, used to produce table sugar; and mangelwurzel, which is a fodder crop. Three subspecies are typically recognised. All cultivated varieties fall into the subspecies Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris. Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima, commonly known as the sea beet, is the wild ancestor of these and is found throughout the Mediterranean, the Atlantic coast of Europe, the Near East, and India. A second wild subspecies, Beta vulgaris subsp. adanensis, occurs from Greece to Syria.
The roots are most commonly deep red-purple in color, but less common varieties include golden yellow and red-and-white striped roots.
Beta vulgaris is a herbaceous biennial or, rarely, perennial plant with leafy stems growing to 1–2 m tall. The leaves are heart-shaped, 5–20 cm long on wild plants (often much larger in cultivated plants). The flowers are produced in dense spikes; each flower is very small, 3–5 mm diameter, green or tinged reddish, with five petals; they are wind pollinated. The fruit is a cluster of hard nutlets.