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Sky Meadows Park
Crooked Run Valley
hedge mustard (Sisymbrium officinale)
common hedge mustard
English water cress
Indian hedge mustard
oriental rocket mustard
Erysimum officinale L.
Sisymbrium officinale (L.) Scop. var. leiocarpum DC.
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for hedge mustard is Sisymbrium officinale (L.) Scop.
NATIVE STATUS: Introduced, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This annual plant becomes about 1½–3½' tall, branching occasionally to abundantly The stem is wiry with very short internodes. Stems are variously covered in spreading to downward pointing (deflexed) hairs, especially in the lower plant and may be hairless on the flowering branches. Plants can take on a bushy appearance from the numerous branches.
Leaves: Leaves are up to 6 inches long and 2 inches wide, deeply divided into narrow to angular lobes, the tip lobe largest and triangular to arrowhead shaped in outline, with 2 to 5 pairs of lateral lobes. Surfaces are usually short-hairy, sometimes hairless. Edges vary from toothless to irregularly toothed to shallowly lobed. Stalks on lower leaves are up to 4 inches long. Leaves become smaller, less divided and shorter stalked as they ascend the stem, the upper leaves with a single pair of narrow, outward pointing lobes.
Flowers: Small clusters at the end of branching stems that elongate as the plant matures, with a few flowers open at the branch tip and fruit forming below it. Branches are spreading and curve upward as they extend, the plant taking on a candelabra-like form. Flowers are about 1/8 inch across with 4 rounded yellow petals and 6 greenish stamens with yellow tips surrounding a stout style in the center. The sepals surrounding the base of the flower are hairless to variously hairy.
Fruits/Seeds: Fruit is a very slender, straight pod 3/8 to nearly ¾ inch long, appressed to the stem, with the brown stub of the style at the tip. The small seeds are short-cylindrical in shape, slightly flattened, reddish brown, and about 1 mm. in length.
Roots: The root system consists of a taproot.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Hedge mustard propogates itself by reseeding.
HABITAT TYPES: Hedge mustard has a varied range of habitats including roadsides, fields, waste areas, woodland edges, degraded meadows, fields and pastures, poorly maintained gardens, yards and barnyeards, walls, gardens, beside streets, alleys, roadsides, waste ground, rubbish tips, shores, harbours, sometimes beside tracks, mills. In general, hedge mustard prefers disturbed areas with fertile soil and waste areas.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Hedge mustard prefers full to partial sun, moist to slightly dry conditions, and fertile loamy soil with a high level of nitrogen. However, this weedy plant readily adapts to other kinds of soil, including those containing clay-loam or rocky material. The fertility of the soil and moisture conditions influence the size of individual plants. As noted above, hedge mustard occurs frequently in disturbed soils.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period usually occurs during the summer for about 2 months; some plants may bloom during the late spring or fall.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Hedge mustard is found throughout the United States (except Arizona) and all Canadian provinces (excluding Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territory, and Nunavut).
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: Observations of the butterflies Pieris rapae (Cabbage White) and Pieris napi (Mustard White) sucking nectar from the flowers of Hedge Mustard; small bees (mainly Halictid) also visit the flowers to suck nectar and collect pollen. The caterpillars of the butterflies Pontia protodice (checkered white) and Pieris rapae (cabbage white) feed on many species of the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae); caterpillars of moths that feed on crucifers include Eustixia pupula (spotted peppergrass moth), Evergestis pallidata (purple-backed cabbage worm), Mamestra configurata (bertha armyworm), Plutella xylostella (diamondback moth), and Trichoplusia ni (cabbage looper). Like other crucifers, Sisymbrium spp. attract various beetles, including Entomoscelis americana (red turnip beetle), Phyllotreta cruciferae (crucifer flea beetle), Phyllotreta striolata (striped flea beetle), and Psylliodes punctulatus (hop flea beetle). An insect with a southern distribution, Murgantia histrionica (harlequin bug), sucks plant juices from a wide variety of crucifers.
Despite serious safety concerns, people take hedge mustard to treat urinary tract diseases, coughs, chronic bronchitis, and swelling (inflammation) of the gallbladder.
Hedge mustard is reputed expectorant, and has been used with advantage in hoarseness, old coughs, asthma and ulcerated throat; likewise said to exert some influence as a diuretic in urinary obstructions. The powdered seeds may be used internally in the dose of from 5 to 30 grains, or an infusion may be given every 2 or 3 hours in tablespoonful doses. The juice rubbed up with sugar or honey is also used.
Hedge mustard is also used as a gargle or mouthwash.