Cruciferae is a family of plants from the order brassicales. Another name for this family is Brassicaceae, and it is commonly known as the mustard or cabbage family. These plants are found all over the world, especially in temperate climates such as in North America. One specific species of Cruciferae, the Brassica oleracea, has been cultivated to produce many common types of vegetables.
Typically, plants in the Cruciferae family are herbs or small shrubs. Their stems contain alternating leaves that grow radially around the stalk. These leaves are usually simple but can have segments. The plants also produce small, four-petaled flowers that contain six stamens: four tall and two short. Their fruit is dry and may be either capsules, meaning the fruit splits apart to release its seeds, or indehiscents, meaning that fruit that does not need to open to release its seeds.
There are over 3,000 species in the family Cruciferae. Typically these plants grow in northern, temperate regions, but they can be found all over the world. They may be annual, biannual or perennial.
Plants from this family include a large number of “winter vegetables,” which are plants that thrive best in cooler climates or during cooler times of the year rather than during the heat of the summer. These vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Although some plants in the Cruciferae family may taste bitter, all are edible, and none are poisonous.
One popular type of cultivated Cruciferae is Brassica oleracea, also known as the wild cabbage. This species is native to costal areas of southern and western Europe, but can be grown all over the world, especially in more temperate climates. There are many plants in this species that appear to be very different from one another because they are all cultivars of the same species. Cultivars seem very different from one another because they have been selected so that specific traits are emphasized. There are seven main groups of Brassica oleracea, many of which include well known vegetables, including kale, Chinese broccoli, and kohlrabi.
The name Cruciferae comes from the Latin word for cross. The name was given to this family because the flowers of this plant have four petals and resemble the shape of a cross. Although this name is still used, it is more common today to see this family of plants referred to as Brassicacease rather than Cruciferae.