Brassica fruticulosa
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Identification of Brassica fruticulosa Cirillo in Escondido, California
© W.P. Armstrong & Steven Disparti 27 March 2010

Brassicaceae: Brassica fruticulosa Cirillo (Mediterranean Cabbage)

1352 Brassicaceae
Brassica fruticulosa Cirillo
Mediterranean Cabbage
San Diego County, CA, USA

Along both sides of Circle Drive, 0.5 mile (0.8 km) SE of junction with Via Loma Vista, City of
Escondido. Also along N side of Via Rancho Pkwy between Bernardo Lane & Via Loma Vista.

GPS: WGS84 (= NAD83)  N. 33.07644o,   W. 117.09289o   [Elev. 759 ft = 231.3 m]

Collector: W.P. Armstrong & S. Disparti 27 March 2010

Abundant, naturalized annual mustard in vacant fields along Circle Drive.

This species is listed in Consortium of California Herbaria for Los Angeles, San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

Brassica fruticulosa along Circle Drive. The basal leaves on fruiting plants are deciduous.

Brassica fruticulosa is a prolific seed producer.

This species has spreading fruits (siliques) that are conspicuously constricted between the seeds. The basal and cauline leaves are petiolate and deeply lobed. The foliage has the odor and flavor of cabbage or brocolli. It is different from other species of naturalized Brassica in San Diego County, such as B. napus (rapeseed), B. nigra (black mustard), B. rapa (field mustard) and B. tournefortii (Sahara mustard). It is also different from other naturalized mustards previously assigned to Brassica, including Hirschfeldia incana (short pod mustard) and charlock (Sinapsis arvensis).

In the Flora of North America on-line key to Brassica, B. fruticulosa keys out under the following:

1+ Cauline leaves petiolate or sessile, blade bases tapered, not auriculate or amplexicaul. (4)

4+ Fruits and pedicels spreading to ascending, not appressed to rachises; fruits often 2 cm+, torulose; fruiting pedicels (6-) 8-20 mm. (5)

5+ Fruits sessile or stipitate, gynophores to 1 mm, terminal segments (4-)5-20 mm; basal leaf blade margins lyrate to pinnatisect, or pinnately lobed. (6)

6+ Basal leaves deciduous, blades with 1-3 (or 4) lobes each side, surfaces glabrous or nearly so; petals (7-)9-13 x 3-7.5 mm. (7)

7  Fruits stipitate (gynophore 1 - 1.5 mm), 1.5-3 cm x 1.5-2 mm, terminal segment 3-6 mm (see following 2 images):

The fruit (silique) is elevated above the tip of the pedicel by a short gynophore about 1 mm long.

The silique is torulose (conspicuous constrictions between seeds); Terminal segment (beak) is 5-6 mm long.

Brassica fruticulosa in full bloom. The petals are 8-10 mm long and 3-5 mm wide.

Close-up view showing extrorse anthers dehiscing to the outside of flower center.

Magnified view of stigma and extrorse anther showing line of dehiscence.

A Popular Mediterranean Vegetable

Populations of Brassica fruticulosa grow wild in southern Europe and northern Africa. Called "Mediterranean cabbage" the fresh greens are collected and used as a vegetable. In the following images, leaves and stems were steamed in a covered frying pan. Sautéed garlic and almond slices were added to enhance the flavor. Unlike other naturalized mustards in San Diego County, this species is edible with a pleasant cabbage-like flavor.

According to S. Kumar et al. (2011), Brassica fruticulosa is naturally resistant to infestations of cabbage aphid (Lipaphis erysimi). The insecticidal properties of this species are a promising method of biological control. Through introgressive hybridization, this trait may transferred to other important vegetable cultivars of the genus Brassica.