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Family Brassicaceae

Description: Annual to perennial herbs, rarely small shrubs, commonly smelling like mustard or cabbage when crushed.

Leaves usually alternate, simple to pinnate, basal leaves often pinnatisect, upper stem leaves reducing; stipules absent.

Inflorescence mostly a terminal raceme, sometimes corymbose, commonly elongating in fruit. Flowers actinomorphic, bisexual, nectariferous. Sepals 4, free, in 2 whorls. Petals 4, free, usually clawed, spreading in the form of a cross. Stamens usually 6 in 2 whorls, outer 2 filaments shorter than 4 inner; anthers dehiscing longitudinally. Gynoecium of 2 fused carpels, ovary superior, 2-locular, false septum dividing ovary typically present and persistent after seed dispersal; style single, stigma usually 2-lobed; placentation parietal, ovules 1–many.

Fruit elongated (siliqua) or short (silicula), usually dehiscent and opening from the base by 2 valves, or the fruit transversely jointed and breaking into 1-seeded units. Some fruits have an extension called a beak that may or may not be seed-bearing. The seeds are often characteristic in shape, colour and possession of the ability to form a mucilaginous film when wet. Embryo morphology may also be diagnostic.

Distribution and occurrence: World: 375 genera, 3200 species, cosmopolitan but mainly temperate regions. Australia: 53 genera, 160 species, all States, chiefly arid, many introduced.

External links:
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Brassicaceae, Order: Brassicales)

Many species are cultivated as food plants. Some are commonly grown as ornamentals and many are weeds. Matthiola (stocks) and Cheiranthus (wallflowers) are often cultivated as ornamentals and in some instances they may have escaped. These genera (indicated by **) are keyed out but not treated further in the text. Key adapted from Hewson (1982b).

Text by L. Retter & G. J. Harden
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Erysimum,    Hesperis,    Hornungia,    Myagrum,    Nasturtium

 Key to the genera 
1Fruit a siliqua (length, excluding beak, more than 3 times width)2
Fruit a silicula (length, excluding beak, less than 3 times width)30
2Fruit differentiated into valve and beak3
Fruit with valve region only (style sometimes persistent, but not developed into a beak)
                       Back to 1
3Seeds in 2 rows in each loculus4
Seeds in 1 row in each loculus
                       Back to 2
4Petals with purple veins; stigma 2-lobed; beak flattened, 5–10 mm longEruca
Petals without purple veins; stigma capitate; beak more or less conical, c. 2 mm long
                       Back to 3
5Fruit indehiscent, mostly more than 4 mm wide, inflated or markedly constricted between seeds and breaking into 1-seeded unitsRaphanus
Fruit dehiscent, usually less than 3 mm wide, not inflated, rarely more or less constricted between seeds and then not breaking into 1-seeded units
                       Back to 3
6Valves with only 1 prominent vein or rarely venation obscure7
Valves with 3 or more prominent veins
                       Back to 5
7Valves angled; all leaves entire and stem-claspingConringia
Valves rounded; at least some leaves toothed or deeply lobed, or rarely some stem-clasping
                       Back to 6
8Fruit spreading; beak cylindrical, conical or flattenedSinapis
Fruit appressed to stem; beak swollen
                       Back to 6
9Plants with simple hairs or plants glabrous10
Plants with branched hairs
                       Back to 2
10Septum absent; fruit less than 7 mm longMenkea
Septum complete; fruit more than 10 mm long
                       Back to 9
11Seeds mucilaginous when wet12
Seeds not mucilaginous when wet
                       Back to 10
12Plants growing west of the tablelands and stamens 6; seeds finely papillose; flowers white to yellow or rarely lavenderArabidella
Plants either growing on the coast and tablelands and stamens 6 or growing further west and stamens 4; seeds not papillose; flowers always white
                       Back to 11
13Basal leaves lobed or commonly more than 10 cm long; stem leaves sessile, sagittateRorippa
Basal leaves not persistent, lower stem leaves not lobed, mostly less than 8 cm long; upper stem leaves petiolate
                       Back to 12
14Flowers usually white, sometimes pink or purple15
Flowers yellow
                       Back to 11
15Fruit valves more or less flat; dehiscence clock-spring-like; flowers white, pink or purpleCardamine
Fruit valves convex; dehiscence not spring-like; flowers white
                       Back to 14
16Leaves chiefly basal and lobed or leaves pinnateRorippa
Basal leaves not persistent, stem leaves simple and toothed but not lobed
                       Back to 15
17Seeds in 2 rows per loculusRorippa
Seeds in 1 row per loculus
                       Back to 14
18Valves with 3 veins apparent; testa not reticulateSisymbrium
Valves with only midvein distinct; testa reticulate
                       Back to 17
19Seeds in 1 row in each loculus20
Seeds in 2 rows in each loculus
                       Back to 9
20Petals at least 10 mm long21
Petals less than 10 mm long
                       Back to 19
21Stigmatic lobes erect, each with dorsal swelling or hornMatthiola
Stigmatic lobes spreading, without swelling or horn
                       Back to 20
22Leaves 2–3-pinnatisect; petals yellowDescurainia
Leaves entire to toothed; petals white
                       Back to 20
23Midvein of fruit prominent; seeds c. 0.5 mm long; rosette usually present, leaves more or less spathulate, entire or finely toothedArabidopsis
Midvein of fruit indistinct towards apex; seeds 0.75 mm or more long; basal leaves not persistent, stem leaves more or less lanceolate to narrow-elliptic, coarsely toothed
                       Back to 22
24Fruit more than 20 mm long25
Fruit less than 20 mm long
                       Back to 19
25Petals less than 8 mm long, yellow; plants more or less glabrous above, sparsely hairy below; basal leaves not lobed, upper leaves stem-claspingTurritis
Petals more than 8 mm long, white to lavender; plants tomentose; basal leaves pinnatifid, upper leaves not stem-clasping
                       Back to 24
26Fruit buried in the groundGeococcus
Fruit aerial, not buried
                       Back to 24
27Petals thread-like, not clawedStenopetalum
Petals obtuse, somewhat clawed
                       Back to 26
28Fruit linear, petals whitePachymitus
Fruit fusiform; petals yellow or with some lavender
                       Back to 27
29Fruit densely hairyHarmsiodoxa
Fruit glabrous or with a few scattered hairs
                       Back to 28
30Fruit distinctly differentiated into valve region and beak31
Fruit not distinctly differentiated into valve region and beak
                       Back to 1
31Beak flattened and spoon-likeCarrichtera
Beak rounded to conical
                       Back to 30
32Fruit more than 10 mm long; succulent herbs confined to seashoresCakile
Fruit less than 10 mm long; not succulent, widespread weeds
                       Back to 31
33Fruit with 1 seed per loculus34
Fruit with more than 1 seed per loculus
                       Back to 30
34Fruit with a narrow septum and keeled valves35
Fruit with a wide septum and more or less flat valves
                       Back to 33
35Fruit dehiscentLepidium
Fruit indehiscent but sometimes breaking into 1-seeded units
                       Back to 34
36Fruit pitted; leaves pinnatisect, lobes linearCoronopus
Fruit smooth; leaves more or less oblanceolate, entire or almost so
                       Back to 35
37Fruit with a narrow septum; valves winged or more or less keeled38
Fruit with a broad septum; valves neither winged nor keeled
                       Back to 33
38Fruit more or less obcordate; simple and stellate hairs presentCapsella
Fruit more or less globose to elliptic; plants glabrous or hairy, hairs not stellate
                       Back to 37
39Fruit c. 10 mm diam;, winged and deeply notchedThlaspi
Fruit less than 5 mm diam., neither prominently winged nor markedly notched at apex
                       Back to 38
40Fruit more or less globose, less than 5 mm long; basal leaves not persistent; plants glabrous or with simple hairs onlyCuphonotus
Fruit ovate, more than 5 mm long; basal leaves persistent; plants hairy, all hairs bifid
                       Back to 39
41Fruit either more than 2 cm wide or more or less buried in the ground42
Fruit less than 1 cm wide and aerial
                       Back to 37
42Fruit more than 2 cm wide, aerialLunaria
Fruit less than 1 cm wide, buried in the ground
                       Back to 41
43Septum absentMenkea
Septum complete
                       Back to 41
44Petals thread-like, acute or deeply bifid45
Petals somewhat obtuse or emarginate
                       Back to 43
45Petals entire and/or acute; basal leaves usually deeply lobed, sometimes lanceolateStenopetalum
Petals bifid; basal leaves more or less spathulate
                       Back to 44
46Hairs stellate, appressed; staminal filaments with appendagesAlyssum
Hairs absent or present, if stellate not appressed; staminal filaments without appendages
                       Back to 44
47Hairs absent or all simpleRorippa
Hairs present, at least some branched
                       Back to 46
48Either all leaves sessile or petiole winged; base auriculate; basal leaves not in a rosetteCamelina
Some or all leaves petiolate, petiole not winged; base various; basal leaves in a rosette
                       Back to 47

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