Brassicaceae (=Cruciferae)

"Mustard Family"


Flower Characteristics Representatives
Vegetative Characteristics Images
Other Points of Interest Links

Flower Characteristics
  • perianth is regular and of 4 separate sepals and 4 separate petals
  • stamens usually 6, usually tetradynamous (4 long and 2 short)
  • pistil superior and hypogynous of 2 fused carpels (2 locules)
  • floral formula:   -silique (long) or silicle (short)
Vegetative Characteristics
  • annual, biennial, or perennial herbs
  • leaves alternate, simple, estipulate (without stipules) 
Other Points of Interest
  • a large family of 350 genera and about 2500 species
  • conserved family name Cruciferae comes from the cross formed by the 4 petals
  • easy to key to family, but often difficult to key to species
  • fruits are distinctive: usually (in ours at least) a long, splitting, capsule-like fruit called a silique but sometimes a broader, shorter, flatter capsule-like fruit called a silicle
  • economic importance as food (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, radish, kohlrabi, watercress) or condiments (mustard, horse-radish)
  • several weeds (peppergrass, mustards, shepherd's purse)
  • a few ornamentals (stocks, candytuft, sweet alyssum, basket-of-gold)
  • often containing a pungent, mustard-like sap in any or all parts of the plant
  • Field Mustard (Brassica)
  • Toothwort (Cardamine)
  • Yellow Rocket (Barbarea)
  • Cress (Cardamine)
  • Peppergrass (Cardaria, Lepidium)
  • Watercress (Nasturtium)
  • Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli, etc. (Brassica)
  • Radish (Raphanus)
  • Horse-radish (Armoracia)
  • Candytuft (Iberis)
  • Basket-of-Gold (Alyssum)
  • Stocks (Matthiola) 


Amaryllidaceae Cruciferae Lamiaceae Rosaceae
Apiaceae Cyperaceae Leguminosae Scrophulariaceae
Araceae Fabaceae Liliaceae Solanaceae
Asteraceae Fagaceae Magnoliaceae Umbelliferae
Brassicaceae Gramineae Orchidaceae Violaceae
Caryophyllaceae Iridaceae Poaceae  
Compositae Labiatae Ranunculaceae