Brassicaceae is a large and complex family of considerable economic importance to humans. The family comprises 338 genera and 3709 species. Molecular phylogenetic analysis is not complete, but indicates a likely cladistic breakdown into about 33 tribes, which do not track perfectly with classical species morphologies.
Considerable activity has been conducted in the pursuit of maximizing productivity of various mustard and cabbage members of the family. Likewise considerable attention has been given to development of herbicides both for protection of Brassicaceae crops as well as control of wild weedy species of the family; benzothiadiazoles have been particularly effective in control of brassicaceae.
With the expanding use of Brassica and Arabidopsis species as model plant organisms, the family brassicaceae has assumed great importance in 21st century botany.
Annual, biennial or perennial herbs. Stipules 0. Leaves alternate. Flowers in racemes, usually bisexual, hypogynous, actinomorphic. Sepals 4, free, in 2 series. Petals 4 (rarely 0). Stamens 6 (inner 4 long, outer 2 short). Ovary 2-locular. Style 1. Stigmas 2. Fruit dry, usually a dehiscent siliqua or silicula, opening from below by 2 valves, sometimes breaking into segments transversely, sometimes indehiscent.
Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats Specimen Records:5255 Specimens with Sequences:6581 Specimens with Barcodes:3036 Species:1548 Species With Barcodes:1530 Public Records:3988 Public Species:1402 Public BINs:0
Although some varieties of mustard plants were well-established crops in Hellenistic and Roman times, Zohary and Hopf note: "There are almost no archeological records available for any of these crops." Wild forms of mustard and its relatives the radish and turnip can be found over west Asia and Europe, suggesting their domestication took place somewhere in that area. However, Zohary and Hopf conclude: "Suggestions as to the origins of these plants are necessarily based on linguistic considerations."
There has been recent research into varieties of mustards that have a high oil content for use in the production of biodiesel, a renewable liquid fuel similar to diesel fuel. The biodiesel made from mustard oil has good cold flow properties and cetane ratings. The leftover meal after pressing out the oil has also been found to be an effective pesticide.
An interesting genetic relationship between many species of mustard has been observed, and is described as the Triangle of U.