A large family divided into eight tribes, thirty one genera and more than a hundred species. All have pungent watery juices, finely dissected compound leaves and cruciform flowers, the four spreading limbs of the petals forming a cross.
A. Toothwort; Crinkleroot.
B. Whitlow Grass.
During the latter part of April or in May we will find white, crosslike flowers of Toothwort often growing side by side with Anemones. Its stem is stout and smooth, and rises to heights of 8 to 12 inches. At the top are the flowers arranged in a loose spike, on short peduncles; they are half an inch wide, have four white petals, the same number of shorter sepals and numerous yellow stamens. Two 3-parted, notched-edged leaves with short stems, are set oppositely on the flowering stalk, above the middle; other larger, similar ones are on long petioles from the rootstalk. Its names are derived from the shape of the root, which is crinkled and with toothlike appendages; it is edible and often used by country fclk as a relish. It is found in rich woods from N. S. to Minn, and southwards.
Cut-Leaved Toothwort (D. Laciniata) is very similar. The leaves are deeply cut into narrow lobes, conspicuously gash-toothed. The root is deep-seated and with larger tubers. This species blooms from April to June in about the same range as the last.
Whitlow Grass (Draba Verna) (European) has become quite common throughout our range. It is a weed that we will find along roadsides, waste places or barren fields. The flowers are small, and the four white petals are deeply notched. The scape is from 1 to 5 in. high. The leaves are all basal, lance-shaped and lobed or toothed.
A. Common Black Mustard.
B. Hedge Mustard.
Mustard is extensively cultivated in Europe for the small dark brown seeds that form a valuable article of commerce, being used for the table condiment and for various medicinal purposes, such as liniments and the dreaded mustard plaster.
In our country, Mustard is regarded as a pest; it is a very strong, hardy plant, soon over-running sections where it gets a foothold. It is very abundant about abandoned farms and often enroaches upon fields in cultivation; its continued presence in the latter case usually is a sign of shiftlessness on the part of the owner. The stem is very branching and grows to heights of from 2 to 7 feet. The four-petal-ed, light yellow flowers are in small dense clusters at the ends of the branches; a trail of small, erect seed-pods is left in the wake of the flowers as they continue to bloom along the lengthening stem. The leaves have a large terminal, notched lobe and smaller lateral ones.
Charlock; Field Mustard (B. Arvensis) has slightly larger flowers (over one half inch broad), the seed pods are much longer (nearly two inches) and do not hug the stem as closely; the outline of the seeds is plainly visible in the pods. The leaves are notched but not divided nearly as much as those of the Common or Black Mustard. It is very common, as an obnoxious weed, everywhere and was also introduced into this country from Europe.
This is also a common weed, brought from Europe, that keeps the thrifty farmer everlastingly busy trying to exterminate it. It has tiny, four-petalled yellow flowers that bloom all summer, along the lengthening stem, and leaves numerous tiny pods closely set against the stem. The leaves are more angular and more finely divided than those of the Common Mustard.