mustard family


This is me being lazy. I know this has to be in the mustard family, but what is it? The way the leaves wrap around the stem has to be distinctive.

@kihaku-gato you’re my go-to plant identifier.

Mustard by @joviellety

Color: Mustard / #FFDB58

With designers like Mary Quant making vibrantly colored mod clothing featuring doll silhouettes and miniskirts, the 1960s became a fashion revolution. After the tailored trends of the 40s and 50s, the 60s focused on playfulness and the return of youth to the forefront of popular culture. The 60s welcomed the shift from black and white television to color. The palette of the era took inspiration from nature, with golds, oranges and yellows often pumped to more psychedelic saturations. My personal favorite Mary Quant dresses fall in the mustard family and this piece is an homage to the fashion and interior design of the era!


Cakile maritima, Brassicaceae

Laying on a sunny beach close to European searocket, with its subtle floral scent and the gentle, continuous buzzing of bumblebees visiting its flowers, can make an afternoon so much more relaxing, at least in my opinion. You won’t be able to miss this plant present on sandy shores from the Southern Mediterranean up to Scandinavia, but also in parts of North America, western coast of Australia and to a lesser extent in South America, where it has been introduced. 

It’s easy to recognise it as a member of the mustard family by its leaves and four-petalled flowers, which range from white to pink, but the whole plant is fleshy and succulent, an adaptation which, together with a long and thick taproot -also typical of its family- makes it able to pioneer an environment not many other species can easily withstand, thriving on beaches often up to the splash line. Its siliquae, the seedpods you can see developing in the photos, are carried and dispersed by the tides, allowing this annual to successfully establish colonies year after year. 

It is edible, raw or cooked, and very rich in vitamin C, but very bitter and generally considered famine food. 

Collected on this Day in 1845

Collected on April 28, 1845, this specimen was found in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania (Franklin County) by Thomas Conrad Porter. Porter (1822-1901) was a botanist associated with the herbarium at what is now the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia. 

This plant might not seem like anything to write home about, but it is well known by most scientists. Arabidopsis thaliana (mouse-ear cress) has played, and continues to play, a huge role in plant biology research. This weed in the mustard family (Brassicaceae) is native to Europe and Asia and has been widely introduced to the United States. 

Because of its small genome (fully sequenced 16 years ago), rapid life cycle (Germination to reproducing adult takes only six weeks!), mutant genotypes, and a long history of genetic research, this species has become an important model organism for cellular, molecular, evolutionary, agricultural, and even ecological studies. It is the international “lab rat” for plant science. It was discovered in Germany in the 1500s, but did not really become famous as a model organism for research until 1943—nearly 100 years after this specimen was collected!  

Botanists at Carnegie Museum of Natural History share pieces of the herbarium’s historical hidden collection on the dates they were discovered or collected. Check back for more!

Invasive Plant Magic

If you’re a North American witch and you happen to feel the urge to help Mother Nature a little bit, might I suggest incorporating these invasive plants into a few spells?

Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) is a smaller tree native to Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia. It was brought over to the Americas as an ornamental plant, but unfortunately has become infamous for its ability to spread very quickly through avian propagation. I would recommend removing the plant entirely before it has a chance to bear fruit, making use of herbicide if its trunk is more than half an inch in diameter, and then burning the plant. The wood itself is very dense so it is a good component for protection or strengthening spells. It also has, as its scientific name suggests, berries that induce rather painful purgative effects, in case you feel the need to give someone a stomachache. Given its close ties to birds and flying insects, it synergizes well with the element of air. 

Garlic mustard  (Alliaria petiolata) is a biennial flowering plant with a wide range from western China and Pakistan to the British Isles. It is in the mustard family but when crushed, its leaves smell like garlic. It was introduced as a culinary herb to North America but has spread like wildfire. Along with having a prodigious seed production rate, it produces chemicals that attack the mycorrhizal fungi that many other plants are symbiotic with and rely on to grow efficiently. Because of this effect it is useful if the target of a spell, whether tangible or not, needs to be weakened or stripped of an ally. Its also useful as a substitute for garlic or mustard if one is short on either ingredient for a spell. It’s an edible plant too (the younger plants are preferred), good in salads or in pesto sauces. Best to remove it from the base of the plant, taking the root up with it, before it has started fruiting, and either burning it or grinding it up.

As these plants are fruitful in nature, they can both be used for fertility or propagation spells

Never marry your daughter: the fatherhood lessons we can all learn from Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones makes its much anticipated return to TV screens on Sunday. And if the epic fantasy is about anything – aside from politics, dragons, murders, and zombie snowmen – it’s about the father-heir relationship.

Fathers passing on the lineage of their House, or sentencing their offspring to death for not cutting the family mustard. Sons trying to live up to their father’s name, or bumping off the old man for power instead. Yes, those parent-child relationships can be tricky.

So, taking examples from the best (and worst) fathers from Westeros, here are a few lessons in parenting that all dads can relate to.

1. Lead by example (your kids will follow – good or bad)

Dad Lesson From: Ned Stark & Roose Bolton

You know deep down that you’re far from perfect, but your kids will look up to you no matter what.

Ned Stark was honourable (to a fault, in fact – it’s that kind of integrity that got him executed) and so are his kids (though it got a couple of them executed too).

Roose Bolton, on the other hand, was a treacherous double-crosser who turned on the Starks and stole their castle. It’s little surprise then, that his son Ramsey grew up to be the North’s most vicious delinquent – and murdered his own father so he could have the castle himself.

2. You won’t get a minute’s peace (not even on the toilet)

Dad Lesson From: Tywin Lannister

Tywin knows about the unglamorous side of being a dad. You can’t even sit on the loo without one of your kids hassling you. I know how he feels. In Tywin’s case, it’s his Imp son Tyrion, who he’s just sentenced to death – the final act of fatherly disappointment. In my case, my eighteen-month-old, who admittedly just wants to sit on my lap or unravel a toilet roll, rather than confronting me about why I never loved him and then skewering me a crossbow. Still annoying though.

3. You can’t have favourites (even if one of them is a little b-word)

Dad Lesson From: Ned Stark

It’s arguably the greatest parenting taboo of them all, admitting that you’ve got a favourite. But chances are, if you’re in any way human, the thought has passed through your mind – especially when one of the kids is playing up. But if Lord Eddard Stark has a favourite, he never showed it. Even Jon Snow – the boy Ned raised as his illegitimate son – got equal treatment.

You have to admire Ned’s commitment to good, fair parenting – especially in a world where the only thing more complicated than the father-son relationships are the father/b*stard son relationships. Jon Snow has turned out pretty well. In fact, a tenner says he’s king by the end of the series.

4. Tell your kids they make you proud (no matter how utterly useless they are)

Dad Lesson From: Randyll Tarley

Lord Tarley, a proud warrior and nobleman, has always been ashamed of his son Samwell, who – to be fair – is a clumsy heffalump who’s more interested in books that beheading enemies.

Whether we want to admit it or not, a lot of us dads know how Randyll feels. For instance, my five-year-old’s performance in the three-legged race last year was an embarrassment for everyone who witnessed it. I would never tell him, of course. I certainly wouldn’t have sent him to the Night’s Watch for a lifetime of celibacy and servitude. That’s asking for guaranteed daddy issues and resentment.

5. Don’t spoil them (unless you want to raise a tyrant)

Dad Lesson From: Robert Baratheon

It’s easy to get carried away. You want your kids to have the best. You love the excitement on their faces when they get a new toy or open a bag of sweets. But it’s double-edged sword (and it could be a literal double-edged sword, if you’re spoiling them with, erm, swords). Look at King Robert Baratheon and his heir Joffrey. Willfully ignoring the fact that Joff’s not his biological son, Robert’s riches and nonchalant parenting (he only seems bothered about Joffrey when the boy’s out-duelled by a girl) turned Joffery into a spoilt brat/sadist monster.

Spoilt rotten, you could say.

6. Give your kids some attention (or they’ll do crazy things to get it)

Dad Lesson From: Balon Greyjoy

How many times have you skipped a bedtime story because you were too tired? Or plonked your kids in front the TV because you’re too busy? And how many times have the kids played up just to get a few seconds of valuable fatherly attention?

If there was ever proof that you’ll regret not being an attentive dad, it’s Balon Greyjoy. He spurned his estranged son Theon, prompting Theon to seek his father’s approval by sacking Winterfell and murdering everyone – which he ended up getting the, well, chop for.

Bet Balon wishes he’d just given his son a cuddle as he opened up that parcel containing Theon’s favourite body part.

7. You always regret tough love (it really, really burns them)

Dad Lesson From: Stannis Baratheon

We’ve all been there. The kids won’t eat their dinner. They won’t put their shoes on. They’re screaming in the backseat. All of a sudden, you snap – raise your voice, dish out some unreasonably tough discipline, then spend the rest of day worrying you’ve been too harsh and you’re somehow psychologically damaging your children.

It’s that kind of thing that makes fatherhood one long anxious worry. So think about how Stannis Baratheon feels. He dished out the toughest love of all – burning his daughter Shireen at the stake. And she wasn’t anywhere near as annoying as my kids are. It’s no wonder Stannis welcomed his death at the hand of Brienne just days later.

8. Treat boys and girls the same (girls can play with swords too, you know)

Dad Lesson From: Ned Stark & Craster

That’s not to say gender neutral parenting is the only way (it’s a bit hippy-ish, even for the decidedly gender-neutral eunuchs), but it’s a sad day when your kids start seeing the world in terms of “boy things” and “girl things” – like their innocence has been lost. Put them on the right track by teaching them boys and girls are equal.

Ned Stark – yes, that relentless do-gooder again, but to be fair, he’s a ruddy good dad – broke gender norms by letting tomboy Arya swordfight, which put her in good stead.

On the flipside, there’s wilding nutcase Craster, who’s so backward on the whole “boys and girls are equal” thing that he leaves his baby sons out in the woods to be gobbled up by White Walkers. Saying that, he marries his daughters too. Terrible parenting.

Least pepperwort, Virginia pepperweed or peppergrass (Lepidium virginicum) is an annual or biennial plant in the Brassicaceae or mustard family. It is native to much of North America, including most of the United States and Mexico.The plant is edible. The young leaves can be used as a potherb, sauted or used raw, such as in salads. The young seedpods can be used as a substitute for black pepper.


Bulbous bittercress (Cardamine bulbosa) is a perennial plant in the mustard family. It is native to a widespread area of eastern North America, in both Canada and the United States.[3] Its natural habitat is moist soils of bottomland forests and swamps, often in calcareous areas.

Herb of the Week-Sweet Alyssum

The plant is commonly used in Spain as an antiscorbutic and diuretic. It is also highly esteemed there as an astringent in the treatment of gonorrhoea. 

Depending on the reference, Alyssum is listed as either a hardy annual or a short-lived perennial. Plants are generally low growing, from about 3 to 8 inches tall, with nearly an equal spread when mature. They can be planted in spring or fall; if you really don’t plan to water them, plant them in the fall. That way they can develop deep roots systems before summer’s drought sets in. And they will bloom all winter, which is a great bonus. Sweet Alyssum plants make excellent rock garden specimens, edging for pathways and garden borders, and they look fabulous spilling out of window boxes and containers.

Alyssum also deserves a place in vegetable and herb gardens. Herb gardens often incorporate plants of historic or anecdotal interest. The name of this flower (alyssum) comes from the Greek and means “without madness.” Sweet Alyssum was once added to bouquets to signify forgiveness, apology, or otherwise request an end to hostilities. Today it is used in flower essence remedies to overcome anger, madness, and their after effects. While I can’t vouch for this particular theory, gardening is generally considered therapy, and what better therapy could there be than a sweet flower?

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I love my job! As a botanist and graduate student, sometimes I get to go out into the field and do some plant collecting. For the past couple of days I have been exploring the desert of Nevada collecting seeds from Stanleya elata, a relative of mustard in the family Brassicaceae. My project is focused on exploring the genetic mechanisms behind selenium hyperaccumulation in plants, specifically the species Stanleya pinnata. While Stanleya elata does not hyperaccumulate the toxic element selenium, it is crucial for my research in order to do comparative studies between these sister species. By exploring the genetics of both S. pinnata and S. elata, and discovering differences in the structure of their genes and overall plant physiology, the selenium hyperaccumulation pathway can be better understood.


Erysimum capitatum is in the mustard family Brassicaceae. Commonly known as western wallflower, it is native to much of the United States. This genus gets its common name from the fact that many species are found growing from rocky outcroppings and on stone walls. Western wallflower is no exception as it can be found growing mostly in dry, sandy, or gravelly habitats. This species is extremely variable, with flowers ranging in color from yellow to orange, and populations being found near sea level and in alpine areas. The genus name Erysimum is derived from the Greek “eryomai”, which means to help, in reference to the medicinal uses of some species. The plant can be ground up and mixed with water to be used as sunscreen, and can also be applied to open wounds to mitigate infections.


Stanleya pinnata is in the mustard family Brassicaceae. Commonly known as prince’s plume, it is native to the western United States where it grows in semi arid areas along hillsides and open areas. Prince’s plume is an annual forb that produces large yellow flowers during the summer. This species has the ability to accumulate high amounts of selenium, a toxic element found naturally in soils. Whereas other plants would die if they took up high amounts of selenium, prince’s plume is able to accumulate and detoxify the compound, allowing it to survive on highly seleniferous soils. It is believed that prince’s plume accumulates high amounts of selenium as a defense against insects and herbivores, which avoid eating the leaves due to the acrid taste and potentially deadly outcome.