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Wild Turnip

Brassica rapa subsp. sylvestris  (L.) Lam. & Janchen  (Fam: BRASSICACEAE.)

Published date of profile: Mar-2003.
Citation: Mifsud S., (Mar-2003) Brassica rapa subsp. sylvestris on MaltaWildPlants.com

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Species name:

Brassica rapa subsp. sylvestris   (L.) Lam. & Janchen


Carl von Linné, Sweden, 1707-1778 ;
Jean Baptiste A. P. de Monnet de Lamarck, France, 1744-1829 ;
Erwin Emil Alfred Janchen, Austria, 1882-1970

Common names:

Wild Turnip

Maltese name:


Plant Family:

Brassicaceae   (Mustard (Cress) Family)

Name Derivation:

Brassica = Cabbage (Latin)
rapa subsp. sylvestris = Turnip (Latin); Sylvestris means wild (Latin)


No Main Synonyms



Plant description and characters

Life Cycle:


Growth Form:



Weedy places in fields, wasteland and sometimes in traffic islands and gardens.



Localities in Malta:

Common in uncropped fields such as at Buskett, Mtarfa, Mistra and Ghajn Tuffieha to mention a few examples.

Plant Height:


Flowering Period:


Protection in Malta:

Not Protected by Law (LN200/2011 or LN311/2006)

Red List 1989:

Not listed in the Flora section of the National Red Data Book (Lanfranco, 1989)


Adult plants may contain Glucosinolates which are poisonous.

The plant consist of an erect stem up to 60 cm long with many sub-branching stems which continues to a terminal raceme inflorescence. The stem has some white/grey bristly hair along and the base gets tougher and a reddish-brown colour.

The young and adult leaves have different shapes. The basal adult leaves are stalked, ovoid with an irregularly serrated outline, while the young cauline leaves are smaller, sessile with basal auricles embracing the stem, less serrated outline, and are more elongated.

Flowers are made up of 4 diagonally arranged yellow petals, with 6 tetradynamous stamens (which means 4 central stamens with long filaments, plus 2 lateral and shorter) and a central superior green ovary with a single style and swollen stigma. The flower also has 4 green sepals which are spread out horizontally (perpendicular to stem axis)

The fruit are found in stacks below the infloresences. They are stalked elongated pods called siliqua which become the seed pods of the plant. The siliqua can reach up to 50mm in length, has a pointed beak and its body is slightly bulging with the seeds inside. When the seeds are mature, the siliqua splits up open with a sudden twist of the outside walls and so expels the seeds inside at a further distance. A translucent central wall remains after dispersion. The small seeds are quite spherical in shape, and brown in colour.

Information, uses and other details

Personal observations

Dispersion of seeds is by sudden outwards twisting of the 2 outer walls (valves) forming the siliqua [SM]

Confusion in Maltese names
This plant is usually found growing with another white flowered Crucifer - the Diplotaxis erucoides (White wall rocket) Usually the white species grows more abundantly. The flower and plant morphology are quite similar, except the flower colour. The white species is called "gargir abjad" (white 'gargir'). There is another yellow-flowered crucifer species called "gargir isfar" (yellow 'gargir') which its species name is Diplotaxis tenuifolia. One could easy mistake the Maltese names when seeing the two populations of the yellow B. rapa silvestris mixed with the white D. erucoides growing close together and assume that both are gargir, one is white (gargir abjad) and the other is yellow (gargir isfar). B. rapa subsp silvestris is called "liftija" in Maltese and should not be mixed with "gargir isfar". [SM] .

Comparison with Diplotaxis tenuifolia
In Malta there is another Cruciferae plant which is very similar to the Wild Turnip and more abundant. This is called the Perennial Wall Rocket - Diplotaxis tenuifolia). The perennial wall rocket can be easily mistaken for the Wild Turnip at first glance because the yellow flowers and slender fruit pods are very similar. The main differences are the leaves, size of the plant, size of the flower and sepals as indicated in the table below: [SM]
Feature Brassica rapa subsp. silvestris Diplotaxis tenuifolia
Leaves Large, ovoid, serrated and hairy. Furthermore, young leaves have base lobes which embrace the stem Smaller, deeply dented, elongated, glabrous, no embracing lobes
Sepals Few mm below flower, long, perpendicular to stem Small, cup shaped near to flower
Flower Size 13mm average slightly larger, 16mm average
Apical beak of seed pod Long Very short

Not much more information (such as uses) has been found about this plant both on books and on the internet. If you can supply further info please to be included here please do not hesitate to email me. Full reference credits will be given.

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