Ontario Weeds: Tumble mustard

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Excerpt from Publication 505, Ontario Weeds, Order this publication

Table of Contents

  1. Name
  2. Other Names
  3. Family
  4. General Description
  5. Stems and Roots
  6. Leaves
  7. Flowers and Fruit
  8. Habitat
  9. Similar Species
  10. Related Links

Name: Tumble mustard, Sisymbrium altissimum L.,

Other Names: Tumbling mustard, Tumbleweed, sisymbre élevé, moutarde roulante

Family: Mustard Family (Cruciferae)

General Description: Annual or winter annual, reproducing only by seed.

Photos and Pictures

Tumble mustard, note very long, slender seedpods.
Tumble mustard, note very long, slender seedpods.

Tumble mustard. A. Base of plant. B. Flowering branch. C. Seedling, top ad side views. D. Young basal rosette.
Tumble mustard.
A. Base of plant. B. Flowering branch. C. Seedling, top ad side views. D. Young basal rosette.

Stems & Roots: Stems 30-120cm (1-4ft) high, much-branched in the upper part, becoming rather woody and brittle as the plant matures; lower stem and leaves hairy with spreading white hair, but upper parts smooth.

Leaves: First leaves in a basal rosette, becoming large, hairy, shallowly toothed or deeply lobed or usually completely divided into 6 or more pairs of broad, jagged-toothed segments plus a terminal lobe which is never much larger than the side segments; upper leaves narrow and either shallowly toothed or pinnately divided into many very slender segments which are sometimes nearly thread-like; rosette and lower leaves usually dried and gone by flowering time.

Flowers & Fruit: Flowers pale yellow, resembling Wild mustard but smaller, 6mm (¼in.) across, in loose clusters at tips of branches; seedpods very slender and very long, 5-10cm (2-4in.) long, stiff, wide-spreading and almost branch-like, about the same thickness as their stalks, splitting in 3 lengthwise; seeds about 1mm (1/25in.) long, oblong, yellow to reddish-yellow, olive-green, or light brown. Flowers from June to early autumn.

Habitat: Tumble mustard is found throughout Ontario, usually along railway tracks, roadsides and in waste areas but it is appearing with greater frequency in grainfields, especially on sandy soils in the southern portion of the province.

Similar Species: When the seedpods are nearly mature, Tumble mustard is easily distinguished from all other mustards in Ontario because it is the only one with such long thin pods. Rosettes can be distinguished by the terminal lobe of the hairy, divided leaf not being larger than the jagged-toothed lobes along the sides. Young plants up to early flowering can be distinguished by having coarsely lobed basal and lower stem leaves but finely divided upper leaves.

Related Links

... on general Weed topics
... on weed identification, order OMAFRA Publication 505: Ontario Weeds
... on weed control, order OMAFRA Publication 75: Guide To Weed Control

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