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Cruciferae

CRUCIFERAE, or Crucifer family, a natural order of flowering plants, which derives its name from the cruciform arrangement of the four petals of the flower. It is an order of herbaceous

Fig. 1. Wallflower (Cheiranthus Cheiri), reduced. I, Flower in vertical section. 2, Horizontal plan of arrangement of flower in Barbarea.

plants, many of which, such as wallflower, stock, mustard, cabbage, radish and others, are well-known garden or field-plants. Many of the plants are annuals; among these are some of the commonest weeds of cultivation, shepherd's purse (Capsella Bursa-pastoris), charlock (Brassica Sinapis), and such common

Fig. 2. Cruciferae. Floral Diagram (Brassica).

Fig. 3. Cardamine pratensis. Flower with Perianth removed. X4. (After Baillon.)

plants as hedge mustard (Sisymbrium officinale), Jack-by-thehedge (S. Alliaria or Alliaria officinalis). Others are biennials producing a number of leaves on a very short stem in the first year, and in the second sending up a flowering shoot at the expense of the nourishment stored in the thick tap-root during the previous season. Under cultivation this root becomes much enlarged, as in turnip, swede and others. Wallflower (Cheiranthus Cheiri) (Fig. i) is a perennial. The leaves when borne on an elongated stem are arranged alternately and have no stipules. The flowers are arranged in racemes without bracts; during the life of the flower its stalk continues to grow so that the open flowers of an inflorescence stand on a level (that is, arc corymbose). The flowers are regular, with four free sepals arranged in two pairs at right angles, four petals arranged crosswise in one series, and two sets of stamens, an outer with two members and an inner with four, in two pairs placed in the middle line of the flower and at right angles to the outer series. The four inner stamens are longer than the two outer; and the stamens are hence collectively described as tetradynamous. The pistil, which is above the rest of the members of the flower, consists of two carpels joined at their edges to form the ovary, which becomes two-celled by subsequent ingrowth of a septum from these united edges; a row of ovules springs from each edge. The fruit is a pod or siliqua splitting by two valves from

Fig. 4. Cruciferous Fruits. (After Baillon.)

A, Cheiranthus Cheiri. D, Lunariabiennis, showing the septum

B, Lepidium sativum. after the carpels have fallen away.

C, Capsella Bursa-pastoris. E, Crambe maritima.

below upwards and leaving the placentas with the seeds attached to the replum or framework of the septum. The seeds are filled with the large embryo, the two cotyledons of which are variously folded. In germination the cotyledons come above ground and form the first green leaves of the plant.

Pollination is effected by aid of insects. The petals are generally white or yellow, more rarely lilac or some other colour, and between the bases of the stamens are honey-glands. Some or all of the anthers become twisted so that insects in probing for honey will touch the anthers with one side of their head and the capitate stigma with the other. Owing, however, to the close proximity of stigma and anthers, very slight irregularity in the movements of the visiting insect will cause self-pollination, which may also occur by the dropping of pollen from the anthers of the larger stamens on to the stigma.

Fig. 5. Seeds of Cruciferae cut across to show the radicle and cotyledons. (After Baillon.)

Cruciferae is a large order A, Cheiranthus Cheiri (X8). containing nearly 200 genera and about 1200 species. It has a world-wide distribution, but finds its chief development in the temperate and frigid zones, especially of the northern hemisphere, and as Alpine plants. In the subdivision of the order into tribes use is made of differences in the form of the fruit, and the manner of folding of the embryo. When the fruit is several times longer than broad it is known as a siliqua, as in stock or wallflower; when about as long as broad, a silicula, as in shepherd's purse.

B, Sisymbrium Alliaria (Xy).

Figures 2-5 are from Strasburgcr*s Lehrbuck da Balanik, by permission of Gustav Fischer.

The order is well represented in Britain among others by Nasturtium (N. officinale, water-cress), Arabis (rock-cress), Cardamine (bitter-cress), Sisymbrium (hedge mustard, etc.;

5. Irio is London rocket, so-called because it sprang up after the fire of 1666), Brassica (cabbage and mustard), Diplotaxis (rocket), Cochlearia (scurvy-grass) , Ca/wWa (shepherd'spurse) , Lepidium (cress), Thlaspi (penny-cress), Cakile (sea rocket), Raphanus (radish), and others. Of economic importance are species of Brassica, including mustard (B. nigra), white mustard, used when young in salads (B.alba), cabbage (q.v.) and its numerous forms derived from B. oleracea, turnip (B. campeslris), and swede (B. Napus), Raphanus sativus (radish), Cochlearia Armor acia (horse-radish), Nasturtium

Fig. 6. Honesty (Lunaria biennis), officinale (water - cress) , showing Flower and Fruit. Reduced. Lepidium sativum (garden cress). I satis affords a blue dye, woad. Many of the genera are known as ornamental garden plants; such are Cheiranthus (wallflower), Malthiola (stock), Iberis ( candytuf t) , Alyssum (Alison), Hesperis (dame's violet), Lunaria (honesty) (Fig. 6), Aubrietia and others.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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