Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Brassicaceae (Mustard family) members are easy to distinguish - with few exceptions, the flowers have 4 petals and 4 sepals; 6 stamens (4 long and 2 short); and 2 rows of seeds on a pistil that is partitioned lengthwise into 2 divisions.

Familar cultivated Family members include Mustard, Radishes, Watercress, Cauliflower, BokChoy and Broccoli. Rock Cress (Arabis), Wallflower (Erysimum) and Stock (Matthiola incana) are popular native ornamental species for gardens. Three of the species included here are aliens that are so pervasive in the area that they merit identification.

Brassicaceae Family members found on Montara Mountain include:

Arabis blepharophylla - (Rose Rock Cress)

Arabis glabra - (Tower Mustard)

Barbarea vulgaris - (Common Winter Cress)

Brassica birapa - (Field Mustard)

Dentaria cardimine californica - (Milkmaids)

Erysimum franciscanum - (San Francisco Wallflower)

Hirschfeldia incana - (Summer Mustard)

Lobularia maritima - (Sweet Alysum)

Raphanus sativus - (Wild Radish)



Hirschfeldia incana:
Summer Mustard

Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Flowers: Bright yellow, four petals; in small clusters on top of stems.

Blooms: May - October.

Leaves: Tiny upper leaves, basal leaves with large terminal lobe and many small lateral lobes.

Fruit/Seeds: Very short linear seed pods, usually one-seeded and pressed up to stem below flower head.

Location: Grassy trails, disturbed areas along most trails.

Status: Alien Invasive- Common.

Hirschfeldia incana

Poking up through the sage and coyote bush.

Further description & Comment: 1 - 4 ft tall. Smooth stems. Also known as Shortpod Mustard - older scientific name was Brassica geniculata. Like most inavasives, Summer Mustard quickly colonizes disturbed areas before natives can recolonize, and from there can start spreading into undisturbed habitat, displacing native vegetation.



Lobularia maritima:
Sweet Alyssum

Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Flowers: White, tiny, numerous and fragrant; in loose domes at ends of stems.

Blooms: Mainly April - July, but can be found blooming all year.

Leaves: Narrow, linear, unlobed.

Fruit/Seeds: In oval seed-pods, transparent and eyeglass-like, less than 3 mm in length.

Location: Along all trails and roads, disturbed areas.

Status: Alien - Invasive - Common:

Lobularia maritima
600x450 JPEG - 56K

Further description & Comment: Grows 1 - 10 inches tall, entire plant a cushiony mass (see photo to left.)

Alyssum is a garden escapee that spreads rapidly - it can be found along the trails all the way up to peaks of Montara Mountain, and grows in profusion along Highway 1, making removal nearly impossible.



Raphanus sativus:
Wild Radish

Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

 Flowers: Lavender, white - pink, four distinct long rounded petals.

Blooms: March - August.

Leaves: Deeply lobed at base and along lower stem, very mustard-ly (see Barbarea vulgaris - Common Winter Cress).

Fruit/Seeds: Long, fat, dark green pods, with noticeable constrictions in pod between individual seeds.

Location: All disturbed areas, along roads and trails.

Status: Alien - Invasive - Common:

Raphanus sativus
600x450 JPEG - 36K

Further description & Comment: 1 - 4 ft tall, scraggly stem to bush-like. Most coastsiders will recognize this plant - one sprouts up in almost everyone's yard each year, and vacant lots are often choked with it. They do pull out fairly easily, and a day's worth of work can rid an area easily.

The seeds appear to be expelled from the pods at ripening, but only a few feet, so it's a mystery to me how this plant can spread as far and as fast as it does. It may have an animal carrier I'm not aware of, or a way of hitching a ride with humans.


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