Taxonomy and Systematics
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)
Division: Magnoliophyta (Angiosperms)
Class: Magnoliopsida (Dicots)
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.
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.
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.
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."
- "ITIS Standard Report Page: Brassica nigra (L.) W.D.J. Koch." Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Web. 8 Oct. 2010. <http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=23061>.
- 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.
- "PLANTS Profile: Brassica nigra(L.)W.D.J. Koch. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service . Web. 8 Oct. 2010. <http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=BRNI>.