Wild Mustards

Through our virtual programming series, Nature in your Neighborhood, we challenged volunteers to go out into their neighborhoods or backyards to see what plants sparked their interest. Whether plants are native or non native, we can all appreciate a connection to nature and the curiosity that it can spark!


By: Yue Shen Gu

Walking along trails in the East Bay, we can often see wild mustards growing in patches. Their scientific name is Sinapis arvensis. As you can probably guess from their wild growth nature, these mustards are highly invasive. They were originally from Mediterranean basin and are host to caterpillars of butterflies and moths such as small white (Pieris rapae). Franciscan Padres introduced wild mustards to California in the late 1700s. These plants produce bright yellow flowers blooming from January to May. Some say they were scattered along the Camino Real to make the road easier to find. Others suggest wild mustards were grown in gardens as seasoning for food. In fact, boiled mustard leaves are edible (but may upset stomach), grinded seed can produce a kind of mustard, and oil extracted from mustard seed has been used to lubricate machines. Even though wild mustard can be consumed by us, they are toxic for many animal species. So please keep your cat and dog away from eating mustard seeds.

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