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Title: Brassicaceae  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: List of sequenced plastomes, List of sequenced plant genomes, Brassicales, Berteroa incana, Cardamine digitata
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Winter cress, Barbarea vulgaris
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Brassicales
Family: Brassicaceae

See text.

Brassicaceae is a medium-sized and economically important family of flowering plants (Angiosperms), informally known as the mustards, mustard flowers, the crucifers, or the cabbage family.

The name Brassicaceae is derived from the included genus Brassica. Cruciferae, an older name, meaning "cross-bearing", describes the four petals of mustard flowers, which resemble a cross; it is one of eight plant family names without the suffix '-aceae' that are authorized alternative names (according to ICBN Art. 18.5 and 18.6 Vienna Code); thus both Cruciferae and Brassicaceae are used.

The family contains 372 genera and 4060 accepted species.[1] The largest genera are Draba (440 species), Erysimum (261 species), Lepidium (234 species), Cardamine (233 species) and Alyssum (207 species).

The family contains well-known species such as model organism) and many others.

Pieris rapae and other butterflies of the Pieridae family are some of the most well known pests of the commercial cropping of Brassicaceae.


The family is included in Brassicales according to the APG system. Older systems (e.g., Arthur Cronquist's) placed them into the Capparales, a now-defunct order that had a similar definition.

This family comprises about 365 genera and 3200 species all over the world. 94 species of 38 genera are found in Nepal. The plants are mostly herbs. 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. Research published in 2002 suggested that Capparaceae as traditionally circumscribed were paraphyletic with respect to Brassicaceae, with Cleome and several related genera being more closely related to Brassicaceae than to other Capparaceae.[2] The APG II system, therefore, has merged 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. The APG III system has recently adopted this last solution, but this may change as a consensus arises on this point. This article deals with Brassicaceae sensu stricto, i.e. treating Cleomaceae and Capparaceae as segregate families.

 Brassicaceae s.l. 



Brassicaceae s.s.


Aubrieta deltoidea (commonly known as purple rock cress) is a perennial wild flower that is used in gardening for its ornamental large inflorescence.

The family consists mostly of herbaceous plants with annual, biennial or perennial lifespans. However, around the Mediterranean they include also a dozen woody shrubs 1m - 3m tall, e.g. in northern Africa (Zilla spinosa and Ptilotrichum spinosum), in the Dalmatian islands (Dendralyssum and Cramboxylon), and chiefly in Canarias with some woody cruciferous genera: Dendrosinapis, Descurainia, Parolinia, Stanleya, etc..

The rosettes; in rare shrubby crucifers of Mediterranean their leaves are mostly in terminal rosettes, and may be coriaceous and evergreen. They are very often pinnately incised and do not have stipules.

The structure of the flowers is extremely uniform throughout the family. They have four free saccate sepals and four clawed free petals, staggered. They can be disymmetric or slightly zygomorphic, with a typical cross-like arrangement (hence the name 'Cruciferae'). They have six stamens, four of which are longer (as long as the petals, so relatively short in fact) and are arranged in a cross like the petals and the other two are shorter (tetradynamous flower). The pistil is made up of two fused carpels and the style is very short, with two lobes. Superior ovary. The flowers form ebracteate racemose inflorescences, often apically corymb-like.

Pollination occurs by entomogamy, nectar is produced at the base of the stamens and stored on the sepals.

Siliquae of Cardamine impatiens

The fruit is a peculiar kind of capsule named siliqua (plural siliquae, American English silique/siliques). It opens by two valves, which are the modified carpels, leaving the seeds attached to a framework made up of the placenta and tissue from the junction between the valves (replum). There is often an indehiscent beak at the top of the style and one or more seeds may be borne there. Where a siliqua is less than three times as long as it is broad, it is usually termed a silicula. The siliqua may break apart at constrictions occurring between the segments of the seeds, thus forming a sort of loment (e.g., Raphanus), it may eject the seeds explosively (e.g., Cardamine) or may be evolved in a sort of samara (e.g., Isatis). The fruit is often the most important diagnostic character for plants in this family.

Brassicaceae do not form mycorrhizae, although rare exceptions do exist.

Most members share a suite of glucosinolate compounds that have a typical pungent odour usually associated with cole crops.


Lunaria annua with ripe seed pods
Smelowskia americana is endemic to the mid-latitude mountains of western North America.

The importance of this family for food crops has led to its selective breeding throughout history. Some examples of cruciferous food plants are the cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, rapeseed, mustard, radish, horseradish, cress, wasabi, and watercress.

Matthiola (stock), Cheiranthus, Lobularia and Iberis (candytufts) are appreciated for their flowers. Lunaria (honesty) is cultivated for the decorative value of the translucent replum of the round silicula that remains on the dried stems after dehiscence.

Capsella bursa-pastoris, Lepidium, and many Cardamine are common weeds.

Isatis tinctoria (woad) was used in the past to produce the colour indigo.




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Further reading

  • Stevens, P. F. (2001 onwards). Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 7, May 2006 [and more or less continuously updated since]. [2]
  • Strasburger, Noll, Schenck, Schimper: Lehrbuch der Botanik für Hochschulen. 4. Auflage, Gustav Fischer, Jena 1900, p. 459

External links

  • Brassicaceae in L. Watson and M.J. Dallwitz (1992 onwards). The families of flowering plants: descriptions, illustrations, identification, information retrieval.
  • Brassicaceae at
  • Family Brassicaceae Flowers in Israel
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