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Family: Brassicaceae

Kingdom: Plantae Rank: Family Parent: Capparales Status: Valid

Common Names:

  • MUSTARD FAMILY - English, United States of America

Morphological Description

Family Recognition in the Field: Herbs with alternate or basal leaves and flowers with 4 petals in a cruciform or cross arrangement (flower color variable, but typically yellow or white), stamens usually 4 long and 2 short or 2 or 4, and characteristic fruits (siliques) borne in racemes. Similar to Capparaceae but that family often has somewhat bilaterally symmetrical flowers (not cross-like), inflorescence bracts (these absent in Brassicaceae), stamens never 4+2, and fruits lacking a transverse partition (this present in Brassicaceae).

Diagnosis: Ours annual or perennial herbs; leaves basal or alternate, simple or pinnately compound, entire, toothed, or lobed; flowers in terminal or axillary racemes; sepals 4; petals 4 (or more numerous in cultivated plants), in a cross-like arrangement, commonly with an elongate claw and an abruptly spreading blade, equal or unequal (2 larger, 2 smaller), or petals absent; stamens 2–6 (when 6, 4 long and 2 short); pistil 1; ovary superior; fruit a silique (= dry, dehiscent, variously shaped, many-seeded, 2-valved capsule with valves splitting from the bottom and leaving a false partition known as a replum).


Notes: A large (3,250 species in 365 genera), economically important, cosmopolitan, but predominently n temperate family of mostly herbs or rarely shrubs; [a PLANT OF TOXIC/ POISONOUS NATURE]. sulfur-containing mustard oil glucosides are often present and frequently cyanogenic compounds as well; these can result in digestive problems or even death in livestock (Kingsbury 1964; Blackwell 1990). Many Brassica species are cultivated and yield a variety of foods (e.g., cabbage, turnip, mustard) and oils (e.g., rapeseed or canola oil); other genera (e.g., Lobularia –SWEET-ALYSSUM, Lunaria –HONESTY or MONEYPLANT) are cultivated as ornamentals, for landscapes, and for dried arrangements; some are aggressive weeds. Petal measurements in the treatments include both blade and claw (if present). Brassicaceae are closely related to Capparaceae and appear to represent an herbaceous clade within that family. From a cladistic standpoint they should be lumped with Capparaceae to form a more inclusive monophyletic family, which based on nomenclatural rules, should be called Brassicaceae (Judd et al. 1994). (subclass Dilleniidae).