Sinapis arvensis, the charlock mustard, field mustard, wild mustard or charlock, is an annual or winter annual plant of the genus Sinapis in the family Brassicaceae. It is found in the fields of North Africa, Asia and Europe. Pieris rapae, the small white butterfly, and Pieris napi, the green veined white butterfly are significant consumers of charlock during their larval stages.
Sinapis arvensis reaches on average 20–80 centimetres (7.9–31.5 in) of height, but under optimal conditions can exceed one metre. The stems are erect, branched and striated, with coarse spreading hairs especially near the base. The leaves are petiolate (stalked) with a length of 1–4 centimetres (0.39–1.57 in). The basal leaves are oblong, oval, lanceolate, lyrate, pinnatifid to dentate, 4–18 centimetres (1.6–7.1 in) long, 2–5 centimetres (0.79–1.97 in) wide. The cauline leaves are much reduced and are short petiolate to sessile but not auriculate-clasping. It blooms from May to September, or May to August, in the UK. The inflorescence is a raceme made up of yellow flowers having four petals with spreading sepals. The fruit is a silique 3–5 cm long with a beak 1–2 cm long that is flattened-quadrangular. The valves of the silique are glabrous or rarely bristly, three to five nerved. The seeds are dark red or brown, smooth 1-1.5 mm in diameter.
The genus name Sinapis derives from the Greek word sinapi meaning 'mustard'. The species name arvensis is a Latin adjective meaning 'from/of the field'.
A native of the Mediterranean basin, from temperate regions of North Africa, Europe and parts of Asia. It has also become naturalised throughout much of North America, South America, Australia, Japan and South Africa.
It is found in North Africa, within Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. Within Asia, it is found in Arabian Peninsula (in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Caucasus, China, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Siberia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It is also found in tropical Pakistan. In eastern Europe, it is found within Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova and Ukraine. In middle Europe, it is in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia and Switzerland. In northern Europe, in Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. In southeastern Europe, within Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. Also in southwestern Europe, it is found in France, Portugal and Spain.
It grows in the plains and mountains, in pastures, fields, roadsides, waste places (such as railways, tips, and waste ground), and ruins, but mainly in cultivated places. It prefers calcareous soils in sunny places, at an altitude of 0–1,400 metres (0–4,593 ft) above sea level.
The flowers are pollinated by various bees like Andrena agilissima and flies (entomophily). Sinapis arvensis is the host plant of the caterpillars of some Lepidoptera, such as the small white, Pieris rapae. The seeds are toxic to most animals, except birds, and can cause gastrointestinal problems, especially if consumed in large quantities.
The leaves of wild mustard are edible at the juvenile stage of the plant; they are usually boiled, such as in 18th century, in Dublin, where it was sold in the streets. During the Great Famine of Ireland, wild mustard was a common famine food, even though it often caused stomach upset. Once the seeds are ground, they produce a kind of mustard.
A type of oil can be extracted from the seed which has been used for lubricating machinery.
- Sinapsis alba, known as "yellow mustard" or "white mustard"
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