Brassica nigra

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Brassica nigra (Black Mustard), from Plant Resistance Genes (
Black Mustard, photo by Peter Llewellyn, from the Wildflower Society (

Taxonomy and Systematics

Kingdom: Plantae

Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)

Division: Magnoliophyta (Angiosperms)

Class: Magnoliopsida (Dicots)

Subclass: Dilleniidae

Order: Capparales

Family: Brassicaceae (Mustards)

Genus: Brassica L.

Notes on taxonomy: according to ITIS, Sinapis nigra is a rejected synonym for Brassica nigra. Sinapis is another genus of the Brassicaceae, which also contains mustards. Members of the Brassica genus can be distinguished from Sinapis by the former's terete (rounded) beaks, which have fewer than three distinct nerves, and the fact that some species are biennial rather than annual (though B. nigra is not).

The name B. nigra was given by Wilhelm Daniel Joseph Koch (W.D.J. Koch). Brassica is the Latin name for cabbage, and cultivated species of turnip and cabbage belong to this genus.

Descriptive notes

appressed siliques, photo by Peter Llewellyn, from the Wildflower Society (

B. nigra is commonly known as Black Mustard or Shortpod Mustard. It is an annual with erect, widely branching stems. Flowers are small, with yellow, ovate petals and grow in racemes that are not paniculately branching. Basal leaves are petiolate, with leaves higher on the stem tending to be more sessile. Leaf shape also varies along the stem. Lower leaves typically have one to three lobes on each side; upper leaves are generally less divided and can be serrate. Fruits are smooth siliques (two-valved), erect-ascending and often appressed. The seeds themselves are brown or black in color.

The most distinctive characteristic of B. nigra, helpful in distinguishing it from other mustards, is the appressed nature of its siliques at maturity.

Campus distribution and habitat

Found in the partly shaded brush around the campus mulchsite.

General distribution

B. nigra is naturalized from Eurasia. Its habits are typical of weedy species, meaning that it can be found in waste places, fields, cultivated ground and roadsides. It grows across most of the US.

Other notes

According to Flora of the Northeast, "young leaves can be used as a potherb; clusters of flower buds may also be lightly cooked and eaten; seeds can be ground to make the familiar condiment."

Other resources


  • Magee, Dennis W. and Harry E. Ahles. Flora of the Northeast: A Manual of the Vascular Flora of New England and Adjacent New York. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.

External links