Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Brassicaceae or Cruciferae, Mustard Family

Brassicaceae or Cruciferae are also known as Mustards. They are also commonly known as the crucifers or the cabbage family. The are either annual, biennial and perennial and are well-known as important food species and garden and landscape cultivars. Included in this family are broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip and radishes to name a few.

Mustards are found primarily in northern temperate regions world-wide. They are closely related taxonomically to the Caper or Capparaceae family and some botanists include both within Brassicaceae. Brassicaceae is one of only eight families where it is taxonomically correct to refer to this family under its former name Cruciferae.

The Mustard family contains many cruciferous vegetables, including; broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, collards (Brassica oleracea); turnips and Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa) common radish (Raphanus sativus) and horseradish (Armoracia rusticana).

A butterfly of the genus Pieris and other butterflies of the family Pieridae are some of the best-known pests of Brassicaceae species planted as commercial crops.

Mustards are easy to identify in the field with their 4 petals and 4 sepals arranged like a "cross", forming either in an "X" or "H" shape, and thus the previous family name "Cruciferae". Most mustards have 6 stamens, usually 4 taller and 2 shorter. Fruits are either a long thin capsule called a silique or a short often rounded capsule referred to as a silicle. Many of the early spring blooming wildflowers in Arizona and throughout North America are mustards.

In North America, according to the USDA Plants Page there are 107 Genera and 1266 accepted taxa overall in Brassicaceae. The Plant List shows a total of 372 plant genera and 4,060 accepted species names and a further 5,555 scientific plant names of infraspecific rank for the family Brassicaceae.

References: updated 03/14/2020
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database – ITIS search (accessed 03/14/2020).
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 04/07/2017).
Wikipedia contributors, 'Brassicaceae', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 February 2020, 18:38 UTC, [accessed 15 March 2020]