Brassicaceae of Canada

S.I. Warwick
A. Francis, and G. A. Mulligan

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Research Branch
Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre (ECORC)
K.W. Neatby Bldg., Central Experimental Farm
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0C6, Canada

Nature of the Database

The following electronic database provides information on all species of Brassicaceae in Canada, Alaska and Greenland. It includes:

  • taxonomic information: currently correct scientific names, basionyms and other synonyms, and common English names;
  • distributional data: both reference-based distributions and computer-generated maps based on herbarium specimens;
  • additional biological information: chromosome numbers, native or introduced status in Canada, life form and ecology.

The electronic database is interactive, allowing for both ready access to the information and future updates.

Brassicaceae in Canada

Data are presented for a total of 223 species in Canada, including 18 species with more than one infraspecific taxon, for a total of 248 taxa.

Status in Canada No. species No. taxa
Native 137 162
Native and/or introduced 8 6
Introduced, naturalized 58 59
Introduced, naturalized? 1 2
Introduced, adventive 19 19
Total 223 248

The database includes seven taxa which have been reported in error for Canada, and 264 names which are placed in synonymy in this treatment.

In addition data are presented on 8 taxa, 4 species and 4 infraspecific taxa, restricted to Alaska [Cochlearia sessilifolia, Draba aleutica, Draba hatchiae, Smelowskia borealis var.jordalii, Smelowskia borealis var. koliana, Smelowskia calycina var. porsildii, Smelowskia pyriformis, and Subularia aquatica subsp. aquatica].

Maps are available for 247 of the 256 taxa covered in the database. The following taxa do not have specimen-based maps: Cardamine breweri var. breweri, Cardamine flexuosa, Cardamine impatiens, Erysimum arenicola, Lunaria rediviva, Smelowskia borealis var. koliana, Smelowskia pyriformis, Thelypodium milleflorum and Thlaspi perfoliatum.

Economic Value of the Brassicaceae:
Crops and Wild Germplasm

The Brassicaceae, which contains about 3500 species and 350 genera, is one of the 10 most economically important plant families. Crop brassicas display enormous diversity and are used as sources of oil, vegetables, mustard condiments, and fodder. Those of particular importance in Canada are: Brassica napus, B. rapa, and B. junceaas sources of canola and industrial oil. Vegetable crops include cole-crops (Brassica oleracea), swede or rutabaga (Brassica napus), turnip (Brassica rapa) and radish (Raphanus sativus). Condiments include Indian mustard (Brassica juncea), white mustard (Sinapis alba), and horseradish (Armoracia rusticana).

Several species are weeds in Canada. These include: Alliaria petiolata, Arabidopsis thaliana, Barbarea vulgaris, Berteroa incana, Brassica juncea, Brassica nigra, Brassica rapa, Bunias orientalis, Camelina alyssum, Camelina microcarpa, Camelina sativa, Capsella bursa-pastoris, Cardaria draba, Cardaria pubescens, Conringia orientalis, Descurainia incana, Descurainia pinnata, Descurainia sophia, Diplotaxis muralis,Diplotaxis tenuifolia, Erucastrum gallicum, Erysimum asperum, Erysimum cheiranthoides, Erysimum hieracifolium, Erysimum inconspicuum, Hesperis matronalis, Lepidium campestre, Lepidium densiflorum, Lepidium perfoliatum, Lepidium virginicum,Nasturtium officinale, Neslia paniculata, Raphanus raphanistrum, Rorippa austriaca, Rorippa sylvestris, Sinapis alba, Sinapis arvensis, Sisymbrium altissimum, Sisymbrium loeselii, Sisymbrium officinale, Thlaspi arvense, and Turritis glabra.

The potential of wild germplasm to provide novel sources of economic traits in Canadian plant breeding programs has increased dramatically in the last 5-10 years with the development of biotechnology and its utilization as a breeding tool. Wild crucifer species have already provided novel sources of important agronomic traits, such as male sterility and pest resistance for canola. Inventories of genetic diversity, such as demonstrated in this electronic database, will facilitate crop breeding programs. This database is designed specifically to improve the availability and retrieval of information on Canadian species. This knowledge-based publication will increase the efficiency of locating traits and seed for use in germplasm development in the canola and mustard industries as well as cruciferous crop diversification in areas of molecular farming, value-added/nutraceutical crops, and phytoremediation.

Database Format

Pick List of Names

Includes all the scientific names used in the taxonomic literature reviewed for this study [See bibliography].

There are a total of 520 names in the pick list [256 accepted names and 264 names which have been placed in synonymy].

A name accepted in the present treatment links directly to its "Information Screen".

A name rejected and placed in synonymy links first to an intermediary screen that redirects the user to the accepted name and to the relevant "Information Screen".

Information Screen for Each Accepted Taxon

This screen is divided into three sections:

Scientific name:

  • Taxonomic combination followed by taxonomic authorship and a bibliographic reference to the original publication
  • Basionym: Taxonomic combination followed by a bibliographic reference to the original publication
  • Synonyms: [includes only those in the pick list]: Taxonomic combination followed by taxonomic authorship and a bibliographic reference to the original publication
  • Comment: summarizes information on intraspecific taxa in Canada: as subsp. or var.; or misapplication of name in Canada
  • Common Name: English


Reference-based distribution:

Provides an interpretative summary of the distribution of a given taxon according to the MAJOR references indicated below:

  • Boivin: Énumération des plantes du Canada (1966)
  • Mulligan: Reference made to specific papers
  • Rollins: Cruciferae of Continental North America (1993)
  • Sabourin et al.: Guide des crucifères sauvages de l'Est du Canada (Québec, Ontario et Maritimes) (1991)
  • Scoggan: Flora of Canada (1977)
  • Other distributions: References listed in chronological order
Geographical abbreviations:


  • YK: Yukon
  • NT: North West Territories
  • NU: Nunavut
  • BC: British Columbia
  • AB: Alberta
  • SK: Saskatchewan
  • MB: Manitoba
  • ON: Ontario
  • QB: Quebec
  • NB: New Brunswick
  • NS: Nova Scotia
  • PE: Prince Edward Island
  • NF: Newfoundland
  • LB: Labrador


  • AK: Alaska, United States
  • GR: Greenland, Denmark
  • SM: Saint Pierre and Miquelon, France

NOTE: [Provinces] enclosed in square brackets, indicate purported distribution, which at the present time has not been confirmed with annotated specimen(s) in our database. Efforts to obtain and annotate herbarium specimens for these locations are currently in progress.

Specimen-based clickable map:

Includes ca. 16,700 herbarium specimens of the family. All specimens from DAO, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Herbarium in Ottawa are entered. An effort has been made to obtain specimens from other herbaria, in order to confirm at least one annotated record for each province. These include ACAD, ALA, ALTA, BH, BRY, BUF, CAFB, CAN, GH, K, KNK, MONT, MSC, MT, MU, NDA, NFLD, NY, QFA, QH, SASK, TEX, TRT, UAC, UBC, UC, US, USAS, V, VPI and WIS. Herbarium abbreviations follow Holmgren, P.K., Holmgren N.H. & L.C. Barnett (eds). 1990. Index herbariorum. Part I. The herbaria of the world. 8th ed. New York Botanical Garden, New York, NY. All specimens have been annotated by G.A. Mulligan and/or S.I. Warwick.

The number of records are given for each map. Points on the maps are clickable objects that call the database records vouchering them. Specimen information may either be viewed in Label or Table format. [In a few cases (ca. 5), points are based on a "Report" pending the examination of a voucher specimen.]. Three optional map sizes are available for screen viewing. A zoom option is also available, and is accessed by selecting Zoom In and clicking a specific region on the map, either once or more times as needed to obtain required scale. Selection of Recentre followed by a click on the map at the new point is possible when in the Zoom Option. Zoom Out returns the user to the larger scale map in a reverse step-wise manner.

For each record the following data are available:

  • Locality
  • Latitude and longitude
  • Habitat
  • Collector(s)
  • Collection number
  • Collection date
  • Herbarium acronym

Additional Information:

Chromosome numbers:
summarizes n (haploid) and 2n (diploid) counts for the taxon. In the future, this field will be linked to a Chromosome Checklist for the family [Warwick and Al-Shebaz, in prep.]
Canadian status:
native to North America; native and/or introduced; introduced, naturalized; introduced, adventive (i.e. not persisting)
Life Form:
annual, biennial, perennial (caudex simple or branched)
habitats based on herbarium specimen data