Families of Vascular Plants - EEB337H

Capparales - Brassicaceae ("Cruciferae")

390 genera/3000 spp. worldwide, cosmopolitan, especially temperate. Herbs; rarely shrubby, when often pachycaul. Subularia is aquatic. Mustard-oil glucosides effective in defence against bacteria, fungi, insects, mammals; cf. mustard, horse-radish, watercress(R = alkyl or other group):

Flowers in usually bractless racemes, bisexual, hypogynous. K2 + 2, decussate; C4, diagonal to K; A2 short + 4 long; G(2), style. Syncarpous ovary with 2 locules separated by a thin replum connecting 2 parietal placentas, each with (1-) many ovules, developing into a dry-dehiscent fruit (siliqua if elongate, silicula if short), the valves falling to reveal the replum and attached seeds:


Ontario native genera of Brassicaceae (Morton and Venn 1990): Arabis, Armoracia, Braya, Cakile, Cardamine, Cochlearia, Descurainia, Draba, Erysimum, Lepidium, Rorippa, Subularia; cf. also introduced species of these genera, as well as Alliaria, Arabidopsis, Barbarea, Brassica, Capsella, Coronopus, Lunaria, Nasturtium, Sinapis, Sisymbrium, Thlaspi, and others, also cultivated Brassica (mustard, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi), Raphanus (radish).

Recent cladistic analyses of morphological and molecular data from temperate/tropical family pairs suggest that a monophyletic Brassicaceae should be circumscribed so as to include the predominantly woody Capparaceae (Judd, Sanders and Donoghue 1994) to which Cleome belongs.


Judd, W. S., Sanders, R. W. and Donoghue, M. J. 1994. Angiosperm family pairs: preliminary phylogenetic analyses. Harvard Papers in Botany 5.

Judd et al. 1999, p. 326ff.

The Flora North America treatment of the Brassicaceae (Vol. 7) is not yet available:

Flora North America


The Families of Flowering Plants
DELTA database in natural language

L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


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Please send your comments to tim.dickinson@utoronto.ca; last updated 25-Oct-2008