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Winter Cress (Barbarea vulgaris)
Winter Cress (Barbarea vulgaris)
Plant Info
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Kingdom: Plantae
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Magnoliopsida
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Order: Brassicales
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Superfamily: {{{superfamilia}}}
Family: Brassicaceae
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See text.

The flowering plant family Brassicaceae, also called Cruciferae, is known as the mustard family or cabbage family. Agricultural plants in the mustard family are also known as cole crops; cole comes from the Latin word caulis (stem), as does the German Kohl.

The family contains species of great economic importance, providing much of the world's winter vegetables. These include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, collards, and kale (all cultivars of one species, Brassica oleracea), Chinese kale, rutabaga (also known as Swedish turnips or swedes), seakale, turnip, radish and kohl rabi. Other well known members of the Brassicaceae include rapeseed (canola and others), mustard, horseradish, wasabi and watercress. The most intensely studied member of the Brassicaceae is the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana.

The family was formerly named Cruciferae ("cross-bearing"), because the four petals of their flowers are reminiscent of crosses. Many botanists still refer to members of the family as "crucifers". According to ICBN Art. 18.5 (St Louis Code) Cruciferae is to be regarded as validly published, and is thus an accepted alternate name. The name Brassicaceae is derived from the included genus Brassica.

A close relationship has long been acknowledged between Brassicaceae and the caper family, Capparaceae, in part because members of both groups produce glucosinolate (mustard oil) compounds. Recent research (Hall et al. 2002) suggests that Capparaceae as traditionally circumscribed are paraphyletic with respect to Brassicaceae, with Cleome and several related genera being more closely related to Brassicaceae than to other Capparaceae. The APG II system therefore merges the two families under the name Brassicaceae. Other classifications have continued to recognize Capparaceae but with a more restricted circumscription, either including Cleome and its relatives in Brassicaceae or recognizing them in the segregate family Cleomaceae.


Plant diseases

Main article: List of crucifer diseases

Use as food

Template:Seealso The importance of this Family for food crops has lead to its selective breeding throughout history. Brassica oleracea, a plant of Atlantic Europe and the Mediterranean, is the precursor to Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Kohlrabi, Cauliflower, Kale, and most recently Broccoflower, a hybrid of Broccoli and Cauliflower.

Cultivar Selected for...
Kale loose, curly leaves (most closely resembles the wild plant)
Cabbage enlarged terminal buds.
Brussels sprouts numerous lateral buds.
Kohlrabi enlarged stems.
Broccoli enlarged stems and flowering structures.
Cauliflower more extensive flowering structures. The whiteness is caused by the outer

leaves blocking sunlight and preventing the formation of chlorophyll. [1]

Distribution and description

The mustard family is concentrated in the temperate regions and reaches maximal diversity around the Mediterranean area. It contains over 350 genera and about 3000 species.

The family consists of herbaceous plants with annual, bi-annual and perennial lifespans. Members of this family often have alternate (rarely opposite) leaves. Most members share a suite of glucosinolate compounds that has a typical pungent odor usually associated with cole crops.

Whilst some members have seeds with a high erucic acid content, making these unsafe to eat in large doses, all members of this family are edible.




  • Hall, J. C., K. J. Sytsma and H. H. Iltis. 2002. Phylogeny of Capparaceae and Brassicaceae based on chloroplast sequence data. American Journal of Botany 89: 1826-1842 (abstract here).
  1. Sauer, J.D. 1993. Historical geography of crop plants - a select roster. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida

External links


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