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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!

11 December, 2016

Hedge Mustard: the singers plant

If we apply human values and judge flowers for their perceived beauty then I am afraid that hedge mustard (Sisymbrium officinale) would not get a look in! By our values it is a boring, untidy and pretty worthless plant.

Hedge mustard is a member of the cabbage family and has tiny four-petalled yellow flowers that form in small clusters at the end of stalks that continue to grow out, new flowers appearing at the leading end whilst the ones behind turn to seed. This gives the plant a unique appearance with several flowering 'branches' coming out from the main stem. It has rather ragged pale green leaves but the stem tends towards a reddish colour. It flowers from April through until October and beyond in mild autumns and is one of the most common wayside and waste ground weeds.

It may be an untidy, ragged looking plant that we do not give a thought too but this is actually cultivated in some parts of the world as a food source, the leaves having something of a bitter taste but quite edible. The seeds are also ground into mustard and that is, of course, how it gets its common name. In traditional medicine it was considered an effective remedy for sore throats and breathing problems and was apparently known as the singer's plant.

Hedge Mustard: the singers plant