Brassica oleracea

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Brassica oleracea
Brassica oleracea0.jpg
Wild cabbage plants
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Brassicales
Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Brassica
B. oleracea
Binomial name
Brassica oleracea
    • Brassica alboglabra L.H.Bailey
    • Brassica arborea Steud.
    • Brassica bullata Pasq.
    • Brassica capitala DC. ex H.Lév.
    • Brassica caulorapa (DC.) Pasq.
    • Brassica cephala DC. ex H.Lév.
    • Brassica fimbriata Steud.
    • Brassica gemmifera H.Lév.
    • Brassica laciniata Steud.
    • Brassica millecapitata H.Lév.
    • Brassica oleracea subsp. acephala (DC.) Metzg.
    • Brassica oleracea var. capitata L.
    • Brassica oleracea subsp. caulorapa (DC.) Metzg.
    • Brassica oleracea var. costata DC.
    • Brassica oleracea subsp. fruticosa Metzg.
    • Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera DC.
    • Brassica oleracea convar. gemmifera (DC.) Gladis ex Diederichsen
    • Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes L.
    • Brassica oleracea var. kashmiriana Naqshi & Javeid
    • Brassica oleracea var. laciniata L.
    • Brassica oleracea var. palmifolia DC.
    • Brassica oleracea var. rubra L.
    • Brassica oleracea var. sabauda L.
    • Brassica oleracea var. sabellica L.
    • Brassica oleracea var. viridis L.
    • Brassica quercifolia DC. ex H.Lév.
    • Brassica rubra Steud.
    • Brassica suttoniana H.Lév.
    • Brassica sylvestris (L.) Mill.
    • Crucifera brassica E.H.L.Krause
    • Napus oleracea (L.) K.F.Schimp. & Spenn.
    • Rapa rotunda Mill.
    • Raphanus brassica-officinalis Crantz

Brassica oleracea is a plant species from family Brassicaceae that includes many common cultivars used as vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, Savoy cabbage, kohlrabi, and gai lan.

Its uncultivated form, wild cabbage, native to coastal southern and western Europe, is a hardy plant with high tolerance for salt and lime. However, its intolerance of competition from other plants typically restricts its natural occurrence to limestone sea cliffs, like the chalk cliffs on both sides of the English Channel.[3] Wild B. oleracea is a tall biennial plant that forms a stout rosette of large leaves in the first year. The leaves are fleshier and thicker than other Brassica species—an adaptation that helps it store water and nutrients in its difficult growing environment. In its second year, it uses the stored nutrients to produce a flower spike 1 to 2 metres (3–7 ft) tall with numerous yellow flowers.

A 2021 study suggested that the Eastern Mediterranean Brassica cretica was the origin of domesticated B. oleracea.[4] Genetic analysis of nine wild populations on the French Atlantic coast indicated their common feral origin, deriving from domesticated plants escaped from fields and gardens.[5]


'Brassica' was Pliny the Elder's name for several cabbage-like plants.[6]

Its specific epithet oleracea means "vegetable/herbal" in Latin and is a form of holeraceus (oleraceus).[7][8]

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Head of B. oleracea Botrytis group (cauliflower) growing

B. oleracea has become established as an important human food crop plant, used because of its large food reserves, which are stored over the winter in its leaves. It is rich in essential nutrients including vitamin C. It has been bred into a wide range of cultivars, including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, collards, and kale, some of which are hardly recognizable as being members of the same genus, let alone species.[9] The historical genus of Crucifera, meaning "cross-bearing" in reference to the four-petaled flowers, may be the only unifying feature beyond taste.

Researchers believe it has been cultivated for several thousand years, but its history as a domesticated plant is not clear before Greek and Roman times, when it was a well-established garden vegetable. Theophrastus mentions three kinds of rhaphanos (ῤάφανος):[10] a curly-leaved, a smooth-leaved, and a wild-type.[11] He reports the antipathy of the cabbage and the grape vine, for the ancients believed cabbages grown near grapes would impart their flavour to the wine.[12]

A diet rich in cruciferous vegetables (e.g., cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) is linked to a reduced risk of several human cancers.[13][14]

Couve Galega (ex. Brassica oleracea var. acephala DC.) for the Portuguese Caldo verde
A small tree with large leaves
Jersey cabbage can be cultivated to grow quite large, especially in frost-free climates.


According to the Triangle of U theory, B. oleracea is very closely related to five other species of the genus Brassica.[15] A 2021 study suggested that Brassica cretica, native to the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly Greece and the Aegean Islands, was the closest living relative of cultivated B. oleracea, thus supporting the view that its cultivation originated in the Eastern Mediterranean region, with later admixture from other Brassica species.[4]

Bâtons d'chour - Jersey walking sticks

The cultivars of B. oleracea are grouped by developmental form into several major cultivar groups, of which the Acephala ("non-heading") group remains most like the natural wild cabbage in appearance. For a list of these groups, see the table of cultivars.


Market Scene, painting by Pieter Aertsen (1569)

Through artificial selection for various phenotype traits, the emergence of variations of the plant with drastic differences in looks occurred over centuries. Preference for leaves, terminal bud, lateral bud, stem, and inflorescence resulted in selection of varieties of wild cabbage into the many forms known today.

Impact of preference[edit]

  • The preference for the eating of the leaves led to the selection of plants with larger leaves being harvested and their seeds planted for the next growth. Around the fifth century BC, the formation of what is now known as kale had developed.[16]
  • Preference led to further artificial selection of kale plants with more tightly bunched leaves, or terminal bud. Somewhere around the first century AD emerged the phenotype variation of B. oleracea known as cabbage.
  • Phenotype selection preferences in Germany resulted in a new variation from the kale cultivar. By selecting for fatter stems, the variant plant known as kohlrabi emerged around the first century AD.
  • European preference emerged for eating immature buds, selection for inflorescence. Early records in 15th century AD, indicate that early cauliflower and broccoli heading types were found throughout southern Italy and Sicily, although these types may not have been resolved into distinct cultivars until about 100 years later.[17][9][18][19]
  • Further selection in Belgium in lateral bud led to Brussels sprouts in the 18th century.

Genetics in relation to taste[edit]

The TAS2R38 gene encodes a G protein-coupled receptor that functions as a taste receptor, mediated by ligands such as PROP and phenylthiocarbamide that bind to the receptor and initiate signaling that confers various degrees of taste perception. Vegetables in the brassica family, such as collard greens, kale, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, contain glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, which resemble PROP, and therefore much of the perceived "bitterness" of these vegetables is mediated through TAS2R38.[dubious ] Bitter taste receptors in the TS2R family are also found in gut mucosal and pancreatic cells in humans and rodents. These receptors influence release of hormones involved in appetite regulation, such as peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1, and therefore may influence caloric intake and the development of obesity. Thus, bitter taste perception may affect dietary behaviors by influencing both taste preferences and metabolic hormonal regulation.[20]

Three variants in the TAS2R38 gene – rs713598, rs1726866, and rs10246939 – are in high linkage disequilibrium in most populations and result in amino acid coding changes that lead to a range of bitter taste perception phenotypes. The PAV haplotype is dominant; therefore, individuals with at least one copy of the PAV allele perceive molecules in vegetables that resemble PROP as tasting bitter, and consequently may develop an aversion to bitter vegetables. In contrast, individuals with two AVI haplotypes are bitter non-tasters. PAV and AVI haplotypes are the most common, though other haplotypes exist that confer intermediate bitter taste sensitivity (AAI, AAV, AVV, and PVI). This taste aversion may apply to vegetables in general.[20][21]


According to the Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew Species Profiles)[22] the species has eight cultivar groups. Each cultivar group has many varieties.

  • Acephala: non-heading cultivars (kale, collards, ornamental cabbage, ornamental kale, flowering kale, tree cabbage).
  • Alboglabra: Asian Cuisine cultivars (Chinese kale, Chinese broccoli, gai lan, kai lan).
  • Botrytis: cultivars that form compact inflorescences (broccoli, cauliflower, broccoflower, calabrese broccoli, romanesco broccoli). Note: although technically broccoli is an inflorescence, and so it belongs to the Botrytis group, because its subspecies name is Brassica oleracea var. italica, many put it in the Italica group, including The North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension[23])
  • Capitata: cabbage and cabbage-like cultivars (cabbage, savoy cabbage, red cabbage).
  • Gemmifera: bud-producing cultivars (sprouts, Brussels sprouts)
  • Gongylodes: turnip-like cultivars (kohlrabi, knol-kohl)
  • Italica: sprouts (purple sprouting, sprouting broccoli).
  • Tronchuda: low-growing annuals with spreading leaves (Portuguese cabbage, seakale cabbage).
Cultivar Image Cultivar group (Kew) Name (variety, form)
Wild cabbage Brassica oleracea wild.jpg N/A Brassica oleracea var. oleracea
Cabbage Brassica oleracea2.jpg Capitata Brassica oleracea var. capitata f. alba
Savoy cabbage Savoy Cabbage.jpg Capitata Brassica oleracea var. capitata f. sabauda
Red cabbage Cabbage - Indian Botanic Garden - Howrah 2012-01-29 1733.JPG Capitata Brassica oleracea var. capitata f. rubra
Cone cabbage Brassica oleracea convar. capitata var. alba, spitskool (1).jpg Capitata Brassica oleracea var. capitata f. acuta
Gai lan Gailan.jpg Alboglabra Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra
Collard greens Collard greens in Galicia, Spain.jpg Acephala Brassica oleracea var. viridis
Jersey cabbage Tree cabbage.jpg Acephala Brassica oleracea var. longata
Ornamental kale Ornamental Kale.jpg Acephala Brassica oleracea var. acephala
Kale Boerenkool.jpg Acephala Brassica oleracea var. sabellica
Lacinato kale PalmkohlPflanze.jpg Acephala Brassica oleracea var. palmifolia
Perpetual kale Chou vivace.JPG Acephala Brassica oleracea var. ramosa
Kalette Kalettes stem and indivisual.jpg Hybrid Brassica oleracea var. viridis x gemmifera
Marrow cabbage Blauer stangenkohl.jpg Acephala Brassica oleracea var. medullosa
Tronchuda kale Chou au Parc floral.JPG Tronchuda Brassica oleracea var. costata
Brussels sprout Brussels sprouts (4103982312) (2).jpg Gemmifera Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera
Kohlrabi Kalarepa (Poznan).jpg Gongylodes Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes
Broccoli Broccoli2.jpg Botrytis, Italica[a] Brassica oleracea var. italica
Cauliflower Cauliflower 2 bd-c.jpg Botrytis Brassica oleracea var. botrytis
Broccoflower Broccoflower.JPG Hybrid Brassica oleracea var. botrytis × italica
Broccolini Broccolini.jpg Hybrid Brassica oleracea var. italica × alboglabra


  1. ^ Note: although technically broccoli is an inflorescence, and so it belongs to the Botrytis group, because its subspecies name is Brassica oleracea var. italica, many put it in the Italica cultivar group, including the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension[24]


  1. ^ Holubec, V., Uzundzhalieva, K., Vörösváry, G., Donnini, D., Bulińska, Z. & Strajeru, S. 2011. Brassica oleracea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T170110A6717557. Downloaded on 02 July 2021.
  2. ^ "Brassica oleracea L." Plants of the World Online. Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  3. ^ Snogerup, Sven; Gustafsson, Mats; Bothmer, Roland Von (1990-01-01). "Brassica sect. Brassica (Brassicaceae) I. Taxonomy and Variation". Willdenowia. 19 (2): 271–365. JSTOR 3996645.
  4. ^ a b Mabry, Makenzie E; Turner-Hissong, Sarah D; Gallagher, Evan Y; McAlvay, Alex C; An, Hong; Edger, Patrick P; Moore, Jonathan D; Pink, David A C; Teakle, Graham R; Stevens, Chris J; Barker, Guy; Labate, Joanne; Fuller, Dorian Q; Allaby, Robin G; Beissinger, Timothy; Decker, Jared E; Gore, Michael A & Pires, J Chris (2021). "The Evolutionary History of Wild, Domesticated, and Feral Brassica oleracea (Brassicaceae)". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 38 (10): 4419–4434. doi:10.1093/molbev/msab183. PMC 8476135. PMID 34157722.
  5. ^ Maggioni, Lorenzo; von Bothmer, Roland; Poulsen, Gert; Härnström Aloisi, Karolina (2020). "Survey and genetic diversity of wild Brassica oleracea L. Germplasm on the Atlantic coast of France". Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. 67 (7): 1853–1866. doi:10.1007/s10722-020-00945-0. hdl:10568/121870. S2CID 218772995.
  6. ^ Gledhill, David (2008). "The Names of Plants". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521866453 (hardback), ISBN 9780521685535 (paperback). pp 76
  7. ^ Parker, Peter (2018). A Little Book of Latin for Gardeners. Little Brown Book Group. p. 328. ISBN 978-1-4087-0615-2. oleraceus, holeraceus = relating to vegetables or kitchen garden
  8. ^ Whitney, William Dwight (1899). The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia. Century Co. p. 2856. L. holeraceus, prop. oleraceus, herb-like, holus, prop. olus (oler-), herbs, vegetables
  9. ^ a b Stansell, Zachary; Hyma, Katie; Fresnedo-Ramírez, Jonathan; Sun, Qi; Mitchell, Sharon; Björkman, Thomas; Hua, Jian (2018-07-01). "Genotyping-by-sequencing of Brassica oleracea vegetables reveals unique phylogenetic patterns, population structure and domestication footprints". Horticulture Research. 5 (1): 38. doi:10.1038/s41438-018-0040-3. ISSN 2052-7276. PMC 6026498. PMID 29977574. S2CID 49552482.
  10. ^ Compare Theophrastus; raphanis (ραφανίς), "radish", also a Brassica.
  11. ^ Zohary, Daniel; Hopf, Maria; Weiss, Ehud (2012). Domestication of Plants in the Old World: The Origin and Spread of Domesticated Plants in Southwest Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean Basin. Oxford: Oxford University Press (OUP)). p. 199. ISBN 978-0199549061.
  12. ^ Theophrastus, Enquiry into Plants, IV.6.16; Deipnosophistae, I, noting the effects of cabbages on wine and wine-drinkers, also quotes Apollodorus of Carystus: "If they think that our calling it a rhaphanos, while you foreigners call it a krambê, makes any difference to us women!" (on-line English text).
  13. ^ Verhoeven, D. T.; Goldbohm, R. A.; van Poppel, G.; Verhagen, H.; van den Brandt, P. A. (1996-09-01). "Epidemiological studies on brassica vegetables and cancer risk". Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 5 (9): 733–748. ISSN 1055-9965. PMID 8877066.
  14. ^ Higdon, Jane V.; Delage, Barbara; Williams, David E.; Dashwood, Roderick H. (2007-03-01). "Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis". Pharmacological Research. 55 (3): 224–236. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2007.01.009. ISSN 1043-6618. PMC 2737735. PMID 17317210.
  15. ^ Dixon, G.R. (2007). Vegetable brassicas and related crucifers. Wallingford: CABI. ISBN 978-0-85199-395-9.
  16. ^ "Vegetables - University of Saskatchewan". Archived from the original on 2016-03-29. Retrieved 2016-04-07.
  17. ^ Maggioni, Lorenzo; von Bothmer, Roland; Poulsen, Gert; Branca, Ferdinando (2010-06-01). "Origin and Domestication of Cole Crops (Brassica oleracea L.): Linguistic and Literary Considerations1". Economic Botany. 64 (2): 109–123. doi:10.1007/s12231-010-9115-2. hdl:10568/121874. ISSN 1874-9364. S2CID 2771884.
  18. ^ Maggioni, Lorenzo (June 2015). "Domestication of Brassica oleracea L." (in Swedish). Retrieved 2020-11-29.
  19. ^ Stansell, Zachary; Björkman, Thomas (2020-10-01). "From landrace to modern hybrid broccoli: the genomic and morphological domestication syndrome within a diverse B. oleracea collection". Horticulture Research. 7 (1): 159. doi:10.1038/s41438-020-00375-0. ISSN 2052-7276. PMC 7528014. PMID 33082966.
  20. ^ a b Calancie, Larissa; Keyserling, Thomas C.; Smith-Taillie, Lindsey; Robasky, Kimberly; Patterson, Cam; Ammerman, Alice S.; Schisler, Jonathan C. (2018). "TAS2R38 predisposition to bitter taste associated with differential changes in vegetable intake in response to a community-based dietary intervention". G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics. 8 (6): 2107–2119. doi:10.1534/g3.118.300547. PMC 5982837. PMID 29686110. CC BY icon.svg Text was copied from the preprint version, which is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
  21. ^ Behrens, Maik; Gunn, Howard; Ramos, Purita (2013). "Genetic, Functional, and Phenotypic Diversity in TAS2R38-Mediated Bitter Taste Perception". Chemical Senses. 38 (6): 475–84. doi:10.1093/chemse/bjt016. PMID 23632915.
  22. ^ "Brassica oleracea (wild cabbage)". Royal Botanic Gardens. Accessed March 23, 2023
  23. ^ "Brassica oleracea groups". North Carolina State University. Accessed March 23, 2023
  24. ^ "Brassica oleracea groups". North Carolina State University. Accessed March 23, 2023

External links[edit]