Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Descurainia sophia
(flixweed)

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Datasheet

Descurainia sophia (flixweed)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 20 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Descurainia sophia
  • Preferred Common Name
  • flixweed
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Descurainia sophia, commonly known as flixweed, is an annual (rarely biennial) pioneer herb that colonises disturbed sites and is adapted to growing in dry environments. It is also a crop pest and can facilitat...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Descurainia sophia (flixweed); inflorescence and developing seedpods.
TitleInflorescence
CaptionDescurainia sophia (flixweed); inflorescence and developing seedpods.
Copyright©Nuuuuuuuuuuul-2012/Vienna, Austria/via wikipedia - CC BY 2.0
Descurainia sophia (flixweed); inflorescence and developing seedpods.
InflorescenceDescurainia sophia (flixweed); inflorescence and developing seedpods.©Nuuuuuuuuuuul-2012/Vienna, Austria/via wikipedia - CC BY 2.0
Descurainia sophia (flixweed); habit. This species is abundant only in disturbed settings, especially alongside trails and roads. Nr Bozeman, Montana, USA. June, 2007.
TitleHabit
CaptionDescurainia sophia (flixweed); habit. This species is abundant only in disturbed settings, especially alongside trails and roads. Nr Bozeman, Montana, USA. June, 2007.
Copyright©Prof Matt Lavin-2009/Bozeman, Montana, USA - CC BY-SA 2.0
Descurainia sophia (flixweed); habit. This species is abundant only in disturbed settings, especially alongside trails and roads. Nr Bozeman, Montana, USA. June, 2007.
HabitDescurainia sophia (flixweed); habit. This species is abundant only in disturbed settings, especially alongside trails and roads. Nr Bozeman, Montana, USA. June, 2007.©Prof Matt Lavin-2009/Bozeman, Montana, USA - CC BY-SA 2.0
Descurainia sophia (flixweed); seeds, in laboratory at CPHST in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. - Note scale. USA.
TitleSeeds
CaptionDescurainia sophia (flixweed); seeds, in laboratory at CPHST in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. - Note scale. USA.
Copyright©D. Walters & C. Southwick/Table Grape Weed Disseminule ID, USDA APHIS ITP, Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Descurainia sophia (flixweed); seeds, in laboratory at CPHST in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. - Note scale. USA.
SeedsDescurainia sophia (flixweed); seeds, in laboratory at CPHST in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. - Note scale. USA.©D. Walters & C. Southwick/Table Grape Weed Disseminule ID, USDA APHIS ITP, Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Descurainia sophia (L.) Webb ex Prantl

Preferred Common Name

  • flixweed

Other Scientific Names

  • Arabis sophia (L.) Bernh.
  • Crucifera sophia (L.) E.H.L.Krause
  • Descurainia sophia var. brachycarpa O.E. Schulz
  • Descurainia sophia var. glabrata N.Busch
  • Descurainia sophia var. macrophylla (Barnéoud) Prantl
  • Descurainia sophia var. sophia
  • Discurea sophia (L.) Schur
  • Hesperis sophia (L.) Kuntze
  • Phryne sophia (L.) Bubani
  • Sisymbrium parviflorum Lam.
  • Sisymbrium persicum Schrad. ex Spreng.
  • Sisymbrium sophia L.
  • Sisymbrium sophia var. brachycarpum Boiss.
  • Sisymbrium tripinnatum DC.
  • Sophia chirurgorum Garsault
  • Sophia lobelii Rupr.
  • Sophia parviflora (Lam.) Standl.
  • Sophia sophia (L.) Britton
  • Sophia vulgaris Fourr.

International Common Names

  • English: flaxweed tansymustard; flixweed tansymustard; herb-sophia; herb-Sophia; pinnate tansymustard
  • Spanish: ajenjo loco; ajenjo serifio; hieba de la sabiduría; hierba de los cirujanos; Sofia
  • French: descurainie sagesse; sagesse-des-chirurgiens; sisymbre sagesse
  • Portuguese: erva-Sofia

Local Common Names

  • China: bo niang hao
  • Denmark: barberforstand; finbladet vejsennep
  • Finland: litutilli
  • Germany: Besenrauke; Sophienkraut
  • Iceland: Þefjurt
  • Italy: erba Sofia
  • Japan: kujira-gusa
  • Korea, Republic of: jaessug
  • Netherlands: Sofiekruid
  • Norway: hundesennep
  • Spain: herba de la sabiduria; herba de Santa Sofia
  • Sweden: stillfrö
  • UK/England and Wales: piblys
  • UK/Scotland: finéal muire

Summary of Invasiveness

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Descurainia sophia, commonly known as flixweed, is an annual (rarely biennial) pioneer herb that colonises disturbed sites and is adapted to growing in dry environments. It is also a crop pest and can facilitate the establishment of other introduced species. Stands often become dense and crowded within a few post-disturbance years and which can increase the risk of fires. It produces abundant seed which can retain their viability for considerable periods in the soil, and uncrowded stands of D. sophia can develop rapidly. Outside of disturbed areas, this species’ dispersal rate is relatively slow. D. sophia is classified as a noxious weed in Colorado and Minnesota, USA (USDA-APHIS, 1999; USDA-NRCS, 2003), as well as in Canada (University of Alaska Anchorage, 2011). It is considered invasive in Mexico, Japan, Republic of Korea, Chile and Australia.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Capparidales
  •                         Family: Brassicaceae
  •                             Genus: Descurainia
  •                                 Species: Descurainia sophia

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Descuarainia is a genus in the mustard family (Brasicaceae) commonly known as the tansymustards. It comprises 57 accepted species (The Plant List, 2013). The genus Descurainia was named after French botanist and apothecary Francois Decourain (1658-1740) (Missouri Botanic Garden, 2015).

Descurainia sophia has undergone multiple revisions since it was first described by Linnaeus in 1753 under the binomial Sisymbrium sophia L. (Weed Science Society of America, 2003). The APG III system of flowering plant classification currently recognizes 19 synonyms for this species (The Plant List, 2013). The Greek epithet sophia (wisdom) alludes to this species’ reputed medicinal properties (Gledhill, 1989). The origin of its most internationally accepted vernacular name, flixweed, is probably a corruption of 'fluxweed' (Weed Science Society of America, 2003). In 18th century England, fluxweed was believed to be a cure for flux or dysentery and was commonly prescribed to people afflicted with diarrhoea (Weed Science Society of America, 2003). 

Description

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Adapted from the Flora of North America Editorial Committee (1993):

D. sophia is an annual, eglandular, sparsely to densely pubescent herb that grows up to 90 cm; with hairy outgrowths from the epidermis, tree-shaped. Stems erect, un-branched or distally branched, (1-)2-7(-10) dm. Leaves at the base with a petiole 0.1-2(-3) cm long; blade bi or tripinnate, ovate or oblong to obovate in outline, to 15 cm, lateral lobes linear or oblong, (to 10 × 2 mm), margins entire. Leaves growing at the stem sessile or shortly petiolate; blade smaller distally, distal lobes often narrower, surfaces often glabrous. Racemes considerably elongated in fruit. Fruiting pedicels (5-) 8-15(-20) mm long, coming off the stem almost at a right angle. Flowers: sepals erect to ascending, yellowish, oblong, 1.8-2.8 mm long, glabrate to sparsely pubescent; petals narrowly oblanceolate, 2-3 × 0.4-0.6 mm; median filaments 2-3 mm; anthers 0.3-0.4 mm. Fruit an erect, narrowly linear, cylindric pod (12-)15-27(-30) × 0.5-0.8(-1) mm, (straight or curved upward). Fruit valves each with distinct midvein; septum with a broad central longitudinal band appearing as 2 or 3 veins, with 20-48 ovaries per ovary. Style obsolete, 0.05-0.2 mm, glabrous. Seeds are are arranged in one row, reddish brown, oblong, 0.7-1.3 × 0.3-0.6 mm.

Plant Type

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Biennial
Herbaceous
Seed propagated

Distribution

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D. sophia is native to Eurasia, from Portugal to China, and northern Africa. Its current distribution includes South America, East Asia, southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It is also present in Northern Mexico and most part of the USA and Canada.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

AfghanistanPresentUSDA-ARS, 2016Cultivated
ArmeniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
AzerbaijanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
BhutanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
ChinaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-BeijingPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-FujianPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-GansuPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-GuangdongPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-GuangxiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-GuizhouPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-HainanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-HebeiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-HunanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-JiangsuPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-JiangxiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-JilinPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-LiaoningPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-MacauPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-Nei MengguPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-NingxiaPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-QinghaiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-ShaanxiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-ShandongPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-ShanghaiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-SichuanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-TianjinPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-XinjiangPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-YunnanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
Georgia (Republic of)PresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
IndiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Himachal PradeshPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-Jammu and KashmirPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-SikkimPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-Uttar PradeshPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
IranPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
IraqPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
IsraelPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
JapanPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016
-HokkaidoPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016
-HonshuPresentIntroduced Invasive GBIF, 2016; PIER, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016
-KyushuPresentIntroduced Invasive GBIF, 2016; PIER, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016
JordanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
KazakhstanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
Korea, DPRPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2016
Korea, Republic ofPresentIntroduced Invasive Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016; PIER, 2016
KuwaitPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
KyrgyzstanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
LebanonPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
MongoliaPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
NepalPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
PakistanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
SyriaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
TaiwanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
TajikistanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
TurkeyPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
TurkmenistanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
UzbekistanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016

Africa

AlgeriaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
EgyptPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
MoroccoPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
South AfricaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016

North America

CanadaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlbertaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-British ColumbiaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-New BrunswickPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedGBIF, 2016; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-Nova ScotiaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-OntarioPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016
-QuebecPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-SaskatchewanPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
GreenlandPresentMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
MexicoPresentIntroduced Invasive GBIF, 2016; PIER, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlaskaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-ArizonaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-ColoradoPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-ConnecticutPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-DelawarePresentIntroduced1950Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-GeorgiaPresentIntroduced1968Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
-IdahoPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-IllinoisPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-KansasPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-MarylandPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-MassachusettsPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-MichiganPresentIntroduced1985Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-MissouriPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-MontanaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
-NebraskaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-New JerseyPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-New MexicoPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-North CarolinaPresentIntroduced1968Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-North DakotaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-OklahomaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-OregonPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-PennsylvaniaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-South DakotaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-TexasPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-UtahPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
-WashingtonPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-NRCS, 2016
ChilePresentIntroduced Invasive GBIF, 2016; PIER, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016

Europe

AlbaniaPresentNativeUSDA-NRCS, 2016
AustriaPresentNativeGBIF, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016
BelarusPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
BelgiumPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
Bosnia-HercegovinaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
BulgariaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
CroatiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
Czech RepublicPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
DenmarkPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
EstoniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
FinlandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
FrancePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
GermanyPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
GreecePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
HungaryPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
IcelandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
IrelandPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
ItalyPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
LatviaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
LithuaniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
MacedoniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
MoldovaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
MontenegroPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
NetherlandsPresentNativeGBIF, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016
NorwayPresentNativeGBIF, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016
PolandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
PortugalPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
RomaniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
Russian FederationPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Eastern SiberiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-Russian Far EastPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-Western SiberiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
SerbiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
SlovakiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
SloveniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
SpainPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
SwedenPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
SwitzerlandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
UKPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-England and WalesPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
UkrainePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016

Oceania

AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-New South WalesPresentIntroduced Invasive GBIF, 2016; PIER, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016
-South AustraliaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016
New ZealandPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016

History of Introduction and Spread

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D. sophia was probably introduced to North America in the mid 19th century as a contaminant in crop seed of Eurasian origin (University of Alaska Anchorage, 2011).

Risk of Introduction

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There is a risk of further accidental introductions of D. sophia through contamination of agricultural produce.

Habitat

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D. sophia can be found in open-canopy, disturbed sites (PIER, 2016). It grows in a wide range of environments: from cold desert, tundra, taiga, alpine, and subalpine ecosystems to hot desert and dry-tropical Hawaiian ecosystems (Kartesz and Meacham, 1999). It occurs at elevations of 0-3000 m on hillsides, mountain slopes, canyon bottoms and stream banks (PIER, 2016). In Europe, this species is pimarily found on open, warm, nutrient-rich sandy or stony soils (Hanf, 1973). It commonly grows on roadsides, in washes, waste grounds, early seral burns, pastures, cultivated areas, and old fields (University of Alaska Anchorage, 2011; PIER, 2016).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
 
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Principal habitat Natural
Rail / roadsides Principal habitat Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalCold lands / tundra Principal habitat Natural
Rocky areas / lava flows Principal habitat Natural
Deserts Principal habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

According to the Flora of North America Editorial Committee (1993), deviant chromosome counts (e.g., 2n = 12, 14, 20, 38) reported by Rollins (1993) and Warwick et al. (2006) are most certainly erroneous. D. sophia appears to be exclusively tetraploid based on x = 7 (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 1993). However, ten reports in Missouri Botanic Gardens (2016) report the species as a diploid with 2n = 28.

Reproductive Biology

The flowers of D. sophia are hermaphrodite. This species is allo- and autogamous (Howard, 2003), however, pollination is also insect-mediated. The sepals contain nectaries that attract insects (Hickey and King, 1981).

Each plant normally produces between 75-650 seeds (University of Alaska Anchorage, 2011). According to Rutledge and McLendon (1996), very large plants can produce over 700,000 seeds each, which contribute to a large seed bank.

Physiology and Phenology

Cotyledons of D. sophia have a clavated tip and are more or less stalked (French National Institute for Research, 2000). After the cotyledon stage, the seedling forms a rosette of basal leaves, then grows the stem and cauline leaves (Hickman, 1993). Autumn-germinating seeds overwinter as rosettes (Best, 1977). Plants may develop numerous leaves and up to 15 lateral, fruit-bearing branches at maturity (Best, 1977).

Longevity

This species is an annual plant, rarely biennial (Plants for a Future, 2012; Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora, 2016).

Activity Patterns

According toEncyclopaedia of Life (2015), D. sophia flowers from late spring to mid autumn and bears fruit from summer to late autumn. Depending on latitude and elevation, seeds germinate in spring, autumn, and winter (Thomas and Donaghy, 1991).

Population Size and Structure

This species shows good germination (Conn and Farris, 1987), with a mean rate of about 70% (Salisbury, 1961). D. sophia stands often become dense and crowded within a few postdisturbance years, and thin as succession advances (Best, 1977).

Associations

D. sophia has been recognized for its ecological importance in the majority of North American desert ecosystems. In Great Basin Desert communities of east-central Nevada, it showed 25-40% frequency in Artemisia tridentata communities and 5-66% frequency in Pinus monophylla-Juniperus osteosperma communities (Blackburn et al., 1968). According to Brooks (1998), on the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area in the Mojave Desert, southern California, D. sophia associates with creosotebush (Larrea tridentata), white bursage (Ambrosia dumosa), and other annuals, the most common being cutleaf filaree (Erodium cicutarium), red brome (Bromus madritensis ssp. rubens), and Mediterranean grass (Schismus spp.).

According to Huffman (2003), this species is a larval food for butterfly species such as orangetip (Anthocharis spp.), white checkered butterfly (Pontia protodice), and white cabbage butterflies (Pieris spp.).

Environmental Requirements

D. sophia grows in semi-shade (light woodland) or no-shade sites. It tolerates a variety of mineral soils including loam, silty clay, and sand, where it is most common (Howard, 2003). According to Skougard and Brotherson (1979), this species prefers moisture, but tolerates dry soil, however, it is not salt tolerant. Pfeiffer (1957) noted that D. sophia was often found in excessively drained soils, rich in CaCO3 and poor in humus. In salt-desert shrubland environments (like that of central Utah), occurrence is limited to plots with <3,000 ppm soluble salts and <12% soil moisture (Skougard and Brotherson, 1979). D. sophia can grow in all acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils (Plants for a Future, 2012).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
BS - Steppe climate Preferred > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Preferred < 430mm annual precipitation
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
Dw - Continental climate with dry winter Tolerated Continental climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
65-70 50-52

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Immature specimens of the scentless plant bug (Rhopalus tigrinus) feed on the reproductive structures of D. sophia (Wheeler and Hoebeke, 1999).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

The seeds of D. sophia can be dispersed by wind, water, and animals (University of Alaska Anchorage, 2011). Salisbury (1961) suggested that mucilaginous seeds become attached to the feathers of birds feeding in ruderal communities and are removed into new areas by preening. Moreover, a study by Blackshaw and Rode (1991) found that seeds can survive digestion by ruminant grazers or short-term silage, thus making it possible for the plant to be locally dispersed by this means.

Accidental Introduction

D. sophia can be dispersed as a seed contaminate of cereal and forage (Rutledge and McLendon, 1996).

Seeds are known to stick to and be transported by vehicles and machinery (Howard, 2003).

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Economic Impact

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D. sophia is known to interfere with agricultural production. It competes for moisture and nutrients and it reduces overall crop yields (University of Alaska Anchorage, 2011).

D. sophia is an alternate host for beet leafhoppers (Circulifer tenellus), which transmit curly top virus to sugar beet (Beta vulgaris) crops (Hironaka, 1986).

Moreover, all parts of this plant are poisonous to large mammals and, when ingested, cause blindness, staggering, and loss of ability to swallow (University of Alaska Anchorage, 2011).

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Habitats

D. sophia is a pioneer that colonises disturbed substrates, including sites of heavy grazing (Quinton et al., 1982), and facilitates the establishment of other introduced species.

According to Howard (2003), this species often forms dense stands that, when dry, increase the risk of fires. If stands do not burn, then the dried plants provide litter, which facilitates the establishment of cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) (Howard, 2003).

Best (1977) stated that this species’ low, rosette habit protects overwintering plants from low temperatures and drying winds, enabling them to gain maximum advantage from the insulating effect of snow cover.

According to Huffman (2003), D. sophia is a larval food for butterfly species such as orangetip (Anthocharis spp.), white checkered butterfly (Pontia protodice), and white cabbage butterflies (Pieris spp.).

According to Howard (2003), Townsend's ground squirrels (Urocitellus townsendii) graze D. sophia, sometimes in large quantity.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Increases vulnerability to invasions
  • Modification of fire regime
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Interaction with other invasive species
  • Poisoning
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

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Economic Value

D. sophia is a tertiary genetic relative of rape (Brassica napus) (Warwick et al. 2009). Given its moderate palatability to livestock (Pfister et al., 1990), this species is likely to have limited economic value for animal husbandry.

Social Benefit

D. sophia has serveral medicinal and edible uses. In China this species is one of the several ingredients employed in the elaboration of medicinal cigarettes (Fan, 2002). It is also used in mixtures of Chinese herbs to prevent lung cancer (Mohamed and Mahrous, 2009). The flowers and the leaves are antiscorbutic and astringent (Duke and Ayensu, 1985). In Spanish traditional medicine, seeds were used as vermifuge and febrifuge (Feliner, 1993). Moreover, a paste made from crushed leaves is used in the elaboration of skin repairing masks (Feliner, 1993).

Moerman (1998) noted several uses for this species in native American pharmacopoeia: seeds and entire plants were used to treat burns and sores and to ease the pain of toothache, respectively. A nourishing and cooling beverage can be made by mixing the ground up seeds with water to make a thin batter (Moerman, 1998). According to Grieve (1995), in the past, the seeds were employed in the treatment of sciatica, while the juice of the plant was used to treat chronic coughs, hoarseness and ulcerated sore throats (Grieve, 1995). A strong decoction of the plant can be used in the treatment of asthma, fevers, bronchitis, oedema and dysentery (Duke and Ayensu, 1985; Grieve, 1995).

According to Duke and Ayensu (1985), the seed of this species contains 25.5-29.9% protein and 26.9-39.7% fat. Seeds can be eaten raw or cooked, while young leaves and shoots can only be ingested when cooked (Uphof, 1968). Because of their pungent taste, they are used as a mustard substitute (Facciola, 1990). According to Plants for a Future (2012), the seed can be ground into a powder, mixed with cornmeal and used to make bread, or as a thickening agent for soups. It can also be sprouted and added to salads (Plants for a Future, 2012).

 

Uses List

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Drugs, stimulants, social uses

  • Smoking

Human food and beverage

  • Cereal
  • Flour/starch
  • Food additive
  • Oil/fat
  • Spices and culinary herbs
  • Vegetable

Materials

  • Fibre
  • Oils

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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This species can be confounded with Descurainia virletii, a native of central Mexico. D. sophia is distinguishable from D. virletii from the latter’s presence of glands but absence of stallate hairs and the larger fruits (1.5-3 cm long in D. sophia and 0.8-1 cm long in D. virletii) (Roldán et al., 2009).

D. sophia is also also similar in habit and appearance to D. pinnata, a native of North America. The former can be distinguished from the latter in its leaves, which are bi- or tripinnately divided, and its pods, which are biserate and linear. D. pinnata’s leaves are only bipinnately divided and its pods are uniserate and slightly club-shaped (Miller, 1998).

According to Best (1977), D. incana (previously Descurainia richardsonii) is rather readily distinguished from both D. sophia and D. pinnata subsp. brachycarpa as its siliques (i.e. the long, narrow seedpod of many plants of the mustard family) and stalks are erect and close to the main flowering stem. The siliques of D. incana are about 6 mm long and are on stalks 3 mm long.

Moreover, Best (1977) noted that Sisymbrium species bear strong resemblance to Descurainia species. However, the Sisymbrium species do not have branched hairs and the flowers are larger (2.5-8.0 mm) than those of the Descurainia species.

Prevention and Control

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Since D. sophia is an early seral species (a species which colonizes during the intermediate stage of ecological succession), it is recommended to minimize soil disturbance and seed dispersal, as well as to maintain a healthy plant community in order to prevent its establishment (Colorado Department of Agriculture et al., 2000). This species is largely controlled by succession (Howard, 2003).

Control

Physical/mechanical control

Colorado Department of Agriculture et al., (2000) recommends using hand weeding or simple implements to uproot plants. Particularly, hand pulling should target small infestations and situations where chemicals or motorized equipment cannot be used or are undesirable.

According to University of Alaska Anchorage (2011), fire is unlikely to provide control for D. sophia, given that fire provides the conditions for this species’ establishment (bare soil, open canopy, reduced growth interference) (Best, 1977). If this species is already onsite in the seed bank, or as a few plants, fire is likely to increase its importance in the early postfire community (University of Alaska Anchorage, 2011).

Biological control

According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture et al., (2000), there are no biological control organisms reported for D. sophia.

Chemical control

Seedlings of D. sophia are sensitive to most herbicides at relatively low application rates (Howard, 2003). Glyphosate and 2,4-D, as well as many other herbicides give excellent control (Thomas and Donaghy, 1991; Hulting, 2015). However, Heap (2015) states that, in China and the USA, this species has since 2005 developed resistance to several herbicides and infests cereals and winter wheat. These herbicides include Group B/2 herbicides (ALS inhibitors – acetolactate and acetohydroxyacid synthase), Group O/4 herbicides (Synthetic auxins - action like indoleacetic acid), and Group E/14 herbicides (protoporphyrinogen oxidase inhibitors) (Heap, 2015).

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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According to Howard (2003), wildlife use of D. sophia is poorly documented, and further studies are needed to determine its relative importance in animal communities.

References

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Best KF, 1977. The biology of Canadian weeds. 22. Descurainia sophia (L.) Webb. Canadian Journal of Plant Science, 57(2):499-507.

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Conn JS; Farris ML, 1987. Seed viability and dormancy of 17 weed species after 21 months in Alaska. Weed Science, 35(4):524-529

Duke JA; Ayensu ES, 1985. Medicinal Plants of China. 2 Vols. Algonac, Michigan, USA: Reference Publ., Inc, 705 pp.

Encyclopedia of Life, 2015. Encyclopedia of Life. www.eol.org

Facciola S, 1990. Cornucopia II: A Source Book of Edible Plants. Vista, California, USA: Kampong Publications, 713 pp.

Fan W, 2002. Cigarette with Chinese herb medicines. PCT International Patent Application, 2(47):494-501.

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French National Institute for Agricultural Research, 2000. Hirschfeldia incana (L.) Lagreze-Fossat. France: Unit of Weed Science and Agronomy, INRA. http://www2.dijon.inra.fr/hyppa/hyppa-a/hisin_ah.htm

GBIF, 2016. Global Biodiversity Information Facility. http://www.gbif.org/species

Gledhill D, 1989. The Names of Plants, 2nd edition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 202 pp.

Grieve M, 1995. Mustards. A Modern Herbal. http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/m/mustar65.html

Hanf M, 1973. Weeds and their Seedlings. Ipswich, UK: W. S. Cowell, Ltd., 384 pp.

Heap I, 2015. Group B/2 Resistant Flixweed (Descurainia sophia). The International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds. http://weedscience.org/details/case.aspx?ResistID=5268

Hickey M; King CJ, 1981. 100 families of flowering plants. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press., 567pp.

Hickman JC, 1993. The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1400 pp.

Hironaka M, 1986. Piemeisel exclosures. Rangelands, 8(5):221-223.

Howard JL, 2003. Descurainia sophia. Fire Effects Information System. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Huffman M, 2003. Suggestions for LA Butterfly Gardeners. USA: North American Butterfly Association, Los Angeles Chapter. http://www.naba.org/chapters/nabala/Gardens.htm

Hulting A, 2015. Herbicide Effectiveness on Weeds in Grass Seed Crops. Pacific Northwest Weed Management Handbook. Oregon, USA: Oregon State University. http://pnwhandbooks.org/weed/agronomic/grass-seed-crops/herbicide-effectiveness-weeds-grass-seed-crops

Kartesz JT; Meacham CA, 1999. Synthesis of the North American Flora (Windows Version 1.0) CD-ROM. USA: North Carolina Botanical Garden.

Miller T, 1998. Confused by Crucifers? A Mustard Identification Workshop. Washington State Weed Conference, 4 November. http://mountvernon.wsu.edu/WeedScience/publications/MUSTARD.PDF

Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016. Tropicos database. St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden. http://www.tropicos.org/

Moerman DE, 1998. Native American Ethnobotany. Oregon, USA: Timber Press, 927 pp.

Mohamed NH; Mahrous AE, 2009. Chemical constituents of Descurainia sophia L. and its biological activity. Records of Natural Products, 3(1):58-67.

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
Flora of North Americahttp://www.efloras.org/flora_page.aspx?flora_id=1
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS)http://griis.org/Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Weed Science Society of North Americahttp://wssa.net

Organizations

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USA: Alaska Natural Heritage Program - ANHP, Alaska Center for Conservation Science University of Alaska Anchorage, Beatrice McDonald Hall, 3211 Providence Drive Anchorage, Alaska 99508, http://aknhp.uaa.alaska.edu

Acre: USDA-FS, http://www.fs.fed.us/

Contributors

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31/12/2015 Original text:

Diana Quiroz, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, The Netherlands

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