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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

29 September, 2015

Charlock: the yellow peril

We are used to seeing fields of yellow these days, yellow with the blossoms of oil-seed rape grown for the manufacture of cooking oil and butter substitutes. We may think of this as a modern phenomenon but years ago fields were yellow with the flowers of charlock (Sinapis arvensis), also known as wild mustard. Charlock was not grown as a crop, however, as its leaves and seeds are poisonous if consumed in any quantity. Charlock is a fast spreading weed of disturbed soils (mainly on lime or chalk) in fields, waysides and waste areas. Now controlled, where it does occur it is usually present in large, somewhat untidy masses of plants.
Like other mustards, charlock is a member of the brassica or cabbage family and has the familiar four-petalled flowers of this group of plants (also known as crucifereae). The flowers emerge up the stems as previous flowers, now lower down, turn to long, cylindrical, smooth pale green seed pods. The plants grow to about a metre tall and have large lobed leaves.
Charlock is a popular food source

Read more: Charlock: the yellow peril