Charlock sinapsis arvensis

Courtesy of Hectonichus  CC BY-SA 3.0 License.Brassicaceae - Sinapis arvensis (3).JPG


In this series we review the plants that are known as the Crucifers { the four petals form a cross when open}. They include some of our most familiar vegetables such as turnip,cabbage and raddish. In our garden borders they are represented by  plants such as candytuft, stock and wallflower. 

Here we look at another wild mustard species the Charlock, Sinapsis arvensis. Charlock is known by other common names such as  Charlock mustard, Field Mustard and Wild Mustard. The genus name Sinapis comes from a Greek word meaning mustard. The specific name of arvensis means of or from the field. This yellow flowered wild mustard was once one of the most troublesome weeds on arable land.  However, the plant is becoming much more uncommon due to the modern day use of weed killers .The caterpillars of the small white and green-viened white butterflies feed on Charlock.

Close up of the flowers. The four open petals form a cross.

Courtesy of James Lindsey at Ecology of Commanster CC BY=SA 3.0 License.Sinapis.arvensis.-.lindsey.jpg

Description and habitat.

This species attains the height of 20-80 cm { 7.9-31.5 inches}. The stems are erect , branched and striated with coarse bristly hairs especially near the base. The lower leaves have stalks and are rough looking with dentations or lobed while the upper leaves are more narrow have shorter stalks some almost stalkless, but they do not clasp the stems.

The yellow flowers are are four petalled and are borne in domed clusters the green sepals below tend to spread our horizontly beneath the petals as opposed to clasping the petals. They flower from May until September. They are pollinated by various bees and flies.

The flowers are succeeded by seed pods, known as a silique which are about  3-5 cm long with a beak of 1-2 cm long which is flattened and quadrangular the seeds inside are small and black when ripe. The pods are cylindrical and are held upright away from the stem. 

In the UK the plant is found on cultivated land, roadsises,  railway bankings tips and waste land throughout the UK. The seeds are long lived and can reappear suddenly on disturbed ground. It has become naturalized in many parts of North America and in states such as California in the USA they have become very invasive.

The seed pods are held erect away from the stem

Courtesy of Dr. Soundarapandium, who has placed the image in the Public Domain.காட்டுக்கடுகு6.jpg

Photo gallery

Charlock growing in Turkey Image courtesy of Zeynel Cebeci CC BY-Sa 4.0 License.

Wild mustard - Sinapis arvensis 01.jpg

 Charlock growing in a flower bed Courtesy of E Harfst CC BY-SA 4.0 license.Wildkraut Bonn-04 06 2015.JPG


 The foliage of Charlock is very variable. Image courtesy of Dr S Soundarapandium Public Domain.காட்டுக்கடுகு2.jpg


 Foliage and unopened flower buds. Dr S Soundarapandium  Public domain.காட்டுக்கடுகு4.jpg

Uses of Charlock.

An oil ban be extracted from the seeds that is used as a lubricant. The leaves were once boiled and eaten and the seeds can be used to produce a mild mustard. The seeds can be toxic to livestock and other mammals especially when eaten in large quantities however, birds eat them with no apparent effects.

Reuse of images.

The images on this page may be reused . However, the name of the relvant author must be attributed along with any accompanying license.

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