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the web of life in southern Africa

Brassica juncea (Indian or Brown Mustard)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid II > Order: Brassicales > Family: Brassicaceae > Genus: Brassica

Originates from the hybridisation of Brassica nigra and B. campestris which probably happened in South Western Asia and India. Nowadays grown mainly for making mustard.

This species originated from the hybridisation of Brassica nigra with Brassica campestris and this probably happened in South Western Asia and India where the natural distribution of the two species overlaps. Like B. nigra, it has been grown for oilseed, greens and as a spice. Prior to the 1940's, B. juncea was considered to be inferior to B. nigra in the making of mustard but in the 1940's a new yellow-seeded variety of B. juncea was imported into the USA from China and became widely cultivated because, unlike B. nigra, it could be mechanically harvested. This is because this particular variety of B. juncea retains its seeds till after mechanical harvesting whereas all the B. nigra varieties have seeds that fall from the plant unless harvested when ripe by hand which is a lot more time consuming especially as this harvesting has to be done repeadedly through the growing season.


  • Sauer, J.D. 1993. Historical geography of crop plants - a select roster. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

Text by Hamish Robertson