A look at the Cruciform family of plants -part-1  featuring Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata.

This family is also known as the Brassiaceae Family which includes some of our best known vegetables. The word Cruciferae comes from the Latin Crux meaning cross and ferea,meaning bearing. The four petals are arranged in the form of a cross X.. Below are the flowers of Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata. {Image courtesy of TeunSpaans CC BY-SA 3.0 License}. This is a typical crucifer flower arrangment.

 The garlic mustard or hedge Garlic is the only member of the Brassica family that taste and smells of Garlic,all others that do so belong to the Onion family. Do not mistake this plant for our wild garlic --ramsons {see content banners}


 LookZonderLook-bloem-hr.jpg     This is an early flowering species that adorns roadsides and hedgerows {Giving rise to the country name of Jack-by-the-hedge.}. it flowers from April or May depending on locality.


 Coutesy of Sannse CC BY-SA 3.0 License.



Description of Alliaria petiolata

This species is a biennial species, that is to say they form a clump of leaves in the first year and flower in the second. It grows from a deeply growing ,thin,  whitish taproot, that is said to be scented like Horse radish. { see content banners}, In the first year the plant produces a rosette of green leaves close to the ground. They tend to remain green through the winter and produce the flowering stems in the following spring.Alliaria petiolata BCP 040.jpg

 Courtesy of Juan de Vojnikov  CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

In the spring the flowers are arranged in quite dense clusters the four white petals are prominent. As the flowers bloom the the stem as a spike like appearance. The flowers are succeeded by thin upright pods that release the seed in mid summer. The pods are between 4.5.5 cm long. The botanical name for these pods is Silique. They are green at first but turn pale grey-brown as they mature. 

They contain two rows of shiny black seeds which are dispersed as the pod splits open.

 Alliaria petiolata seeds.jpg

 Public domain Wikicommons.


Culinary and Medicinal uses. [Historical uses}

It is thought to be one of the oldest known spices used in cooking in Europe. There is evidence of its use dating back 6100 BC in the Baltic region. In days gone by the leaves were made into a suace {in the way you would make Mint sauce} and served with salt fish. The chopped leaves are used in salads and some times the flowers are added as well. These are best harvested when young they add a mild garlic and mustard flavour.

It was once used in herbal medicine  as a disinfectant or diuretic and formerly used to heal wounds. However, the scientific evidense for these uses are not proven,and better more efficient herbs are now used in its place.

Hedge mustard and related wildlife.

The larvae of the Orange-tip butterfly and the Garden Carpet moth feed on the seed pods and foliage. throughout Europe it is known that at least 69 insect herbivores and seven fungi are associated with the plant. The nemies of this species include weevils, leaf beetles, butterflies and moth larvae such as those previously mentioned.

 Orange tip butterfly on foliage of Hedge garlic. Courtesy of Tim Felce CC BY-SA 2.0 License.

Other species of cruciforms that already feature on this site. Just click on the relevant content banner above. 

Cuckoo flower/Milkmaid.

Horse radish and Black mustard.

Whitlow grass and relatives.

A look at wild cresses.

Tower mustard-UK-8 { Red list conservation species}. 

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