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Hoary Mustard

Hirschfeldia incana  (L.) Lagrèze-Fossat  (Fam: BRASSICACEAE.)

Published date of profile: Oct-2007.
Citation: Mifsud S., (Oct-2007) Hirschfeldia incana on MaltaWildPlants.com

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Species name :

Hirschfeldia incana  (L.) Lagrèze-Fossat

Synonyms :

Basionym or principal synonyms: Brassica adpressa
Full list of synonyms: [ PlantList ]   [ IPNI ]   [ Catalogue of Life ]

Plant Family :

Brassicaceae  Juss.
(Mustard (Cress) Family)

Common name(s) :

Hoary Mustard, Short-podded Mustard, Buchan Weed

Maltese name(s) :

Mustarda selvaġġa

Status for Malta :

Doubtful origin. It is not yet established if this species is native or not)


Very Common     Common     Frequent     Scarce     Rare     Very rare     Extinct

Growth form :

Raunkiaer life form: HEMICRYPTOPHYTE (Creeping plants)   
Germination: Dicotyledon

Legal Protection :

Not Protected by Law (LN200/2011 or LN311/2006)

Red List (1989) :

Not listed in the Flora section of the National Red Data Book (Lanfranco, 1989)

Flowering Time :


Habitat :

Wasteplaces near arable land, countryside paths, sometimes in field margins.

Plant description and characters

Life Cycle:

Annual (sometimes biennial).

Growth Form:

HEMICRYPTOPHYTE (Creeping plants)


Wasteplaces near arable land, countryside paths, sometimes in field margins.



Localities in Malta:

Found in several countryside paths, for example in Dingli, Ghakn Tuffieha, Siggiewi and Qormi.

Plant Height:


Flowering Period:


Protection in Malta:

Not Protected by Law (LN200/2011 or LN311/2006)

Red List 1989:

Not listed in the Flora section of the National Red Data Book (Lanfranco, 1989)


Not Poisonous.

This annual plant is seen growing mostly along rocky roadsides in the countryside, field paths or wasteground near arable sites. When young, the plant forms a basal rosette, but later the mature plant produces a multi-branched flowering stem with smaller cauline leaves. In Malta, many of the leaves are lost during the late-flowering and fruiting stage (May-June) and so the general appearance of the adult plants is that of a highly branched 'bush' with little leaves and plenty of small bright yellow flowers at the branches' tips. The stems are covered with short, greyish hairs, (= canascent).

The leaves of the basal rosette can reach 20-30ccm in length, and are pinnatisect (lobes cut up to the midrib) with 2-7 pairs of lateral lobes. The lateral lobes are oblong to ovate with a rounded tip, while the apical lobe is lanceolate with a blunt-pointed tip. The cauline leaves are shorter, with less lateral lobes (up to 4 pairs) towards the leaf base or without lobes in the uppermost leaves. The lateral lobes of the upper leaves are more slender and lanceolate, while the apical lobe is very large, ovate to lance-shaped with a blunt tip. The uppermost leaves at the flowering branches are reduced to relatively small, subsessile, narrow-lanceolate, lobed leaves. The margin of all leaves are crenated or with shallow teeth and show pinnate venation.

The flowers are typical of the cress (Cruciferae) family. They grow in long racemes and consist of 4 small sepals, 4 yellow petals arranged as a cross, 6 stamens (4 long and central / 2 short and lateral) and one central style+stigma. The flower size varies from 6mm to 12mm in diameter, and found as a dense cluster just at the branch tips. Despite the flowers are small, they are still somehow conspicuous since of the large number of flowering branches, their bright yellow colour and lack of large leaves during the flowering period.

The orientation and shape of the fruit pods (called siliqua) also help to maintain flowers conspicuous. The fruit pods are only about 10-12mm long and so much appressed to their flowering stem, that they are not not distinctly visible. The siliqua are glabrous, often with longitudinal veins (up to 3 per valve) and with a conspicuous swollen, lanceolate beak which holds 1 seed. Siliqua may contain 6-10 reddish brown seeds of about 1 mm in size and a rounded to cylindrical shape.

Information, uses and other details

Nativity and distribution

The distributional range and nativity of this plant is shown in the list below:  [WWW-26]

Northern Africa:   Algeria [n.]; Libya [n.]; Morocco; Tunisia
Western Asia:   Cyprus; Iran; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Lebanon; Syria; Turkey
Caucasus:   Azerbaijan; Russian Federation - Dagestan
Europe:   Albania; Greece (incl. Crete); Italy (incl. Sardinia, Sicily); Yugoslavia; France (incl. Corsica); Ukraine (incl. Krym); Portugal (incl. Azores, Madeira Islands); Spain (incl. Canary Islands, Baleares)

Edible Uses

The young plant is eaten with oil and lemon juice in parts of Greece[183]. The leaves of young plants are eaten raw[61, 177]. Seeds are consumed raw or cooked [257]. They can be ground into powder then mixed with water and eaten[257].

Factors affecting accumulation of thallium and other trace elements in two wild Brassicaceae spontaneously growing on soils contaminated by tailings dam waste.

Thallium is a scarce, highly toxic element. There are several investigations that report Tl accumulation in plants of the family Brassicaceae. These plants could pose a risk in areas where Tl is present at higher concentrations than normal soils. The present study reports analyses of two wild Brassicaceae, Hirschfeldia incana and Diplotaxis catholica, growing spontaneously at five sampling sites moderately polluted with Tl and other trace elements in the Green Corridor of the Guadiamar river, Seville, S. Spain. In general, trace element content was unremarkable in all part plants, despite the concentrations present in soil. Thallium was the only element whose concentration in both plant species was above normal for plants (maximum values of 5.00 mgkg(-1) in H. incana flowers). There were significant positive correlations between total Tl in soil and Tl in both plant species. Transfer Coefficients (TC) for all elements were, in general, for both species, except for Tl in flowers and fruits at some sites. The highest Enrichment Factor (EF) was found for Tl in H. incana fruits (EF = 607) and D. catholica flowers (EF = 321). H. incana was studied in a previous growing season (2004) in the same area, although the rainfall was 3 times more than in the year of the present study (2005), giving a maximum Tl content of 46.5 mgkg(-1) in H. incana flowers. The data presented here show that Tl content of plants growing in semi-arid conditions can be significantly influenced by precipitation. In dry years, plant Tl accumulation may be significantly reduced. [321]

Personal Observations

Identification remarks
The short appressed pods of the plant looks similar to a closely related plant - the Hirschfeldia incana and hence one can easily confuse the two plants. Below is a table which illustrates the main differences betwenn H. incana and S. officinale. [SM]

Feature Hirschfeldia incana Sisymbrium officinale
Shape of leaf lobes The apical part is broad and rounded The apical part is acute and pointed
Leaf margin Crenate; teeth rounded and shallow Serrate; teeth triangular and well defined.
Flowering branches Spread out at about 45 degrees to the mother stem. Spread out at a more larger angle, the lower ones almost perpendicular.
Petals Nearly as long as broad, sub-orbicular Narrow, 2-3 times long as broad.
Siliqua (fruit) Glabrous and possess a swollen beak. Hairy and beakless

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