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Black Mustard

Brassica nigra

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Brassicaceae (Cabbage)
Also in this family:
Alpine Pennycress, Alpine Rock-cress, American Wintercress, Annual Wall Rocket, Austrian Yellowcress, Awlwort, Bastard Cabbage, Bristol Rock-cress, Charlock, Common Scurvygrass, Common Whitlowgrass, Coralroot, Creeping Yellowcress, Cuckooflower, Dame's-violet, Danish Scurvygrass, Dittander, Early Wintercress, Eastern Rocket, English Scurvygrass, Evergreen Candytuft, False London Rocket, Field Pennycress, Field Pepperwort, Flixweed, Garden Arabis, Garden Candytuft, Garden Cress, Garden Radish, Garden Rocket, Garlic Mustard, Glabrous Whitlowgrass, Gold of Pleasure, Great Yellowcress, Greater Cuckooflower, Greater Periwinkle, Greater Swinecress, Hairy Bittercress, Hairy Rock-cress, Hairy Rocket, Hairy Whitlowgrass, Hedge Mustard, Hoary Cress, Hoary Mustard, Hoary Stock, Hoary Whitlowgrass, Honesty, Horseradish, Hutchinsia, Hybrid Watercress, Intermediate Periwinkle, Isle of Man Cabbage, Large Bittercress, Lesser Swinecress, London Rocket, Lundy Cabbage, Marsh Yellowcress, Mountain Scurvygrass, Narrow-fruited Watercress, Narrow-leaved Bittercress, Narrow-leaved Pepperwort, Northern Rock-cress, Northern Yellowcress, Oilseed Rape, Perennial Rocket, Perennial Wall Rocket, Perfoliate Pennycress, Pinnate Coralroot, Purple Rock-cress, Pyrenean Scurvygrass, Rock Whitlowgrass, Russian Rocket, Scottish Scurvygrass, Sea Kale, Sea Radish, Sea Rocket, Sea Stock, Shepherd's Cress, Shepherd's Purse, Small-flowered Wintercress, Smith's Pepperwort, Steppe Cabbage, Swede, Sweet Alyssum, Tall Rocket, Thale Cress, Tower Mustard, Treacle Mustard, Trefoil Cress, Turnip, Wall Whitlowgrass, Wallflower, Wallflower Cabbage, Warty Cabbage, Watercress, Wavy Bittercress, White Mustard, Wild Cabbage, Wild Candytuft, Wild Radish, Wild Turnip, Wintercress, Woad, Yellow Whitlowgrass
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
2 metres tall
Fields, gardens, riverbanks, riversides, roadsides, sea cliffs, seaside, wasteland.

Yellow, 4 petals
The yellow flowers have half-spreading sepals. Up to 15mm wide. 6 stamens. Pollinated by bees and flies.
4-sided seed pods with a short, thin, slender and seedless beak. The seeds are dark brown and ripen from July to September.
An annual flower with untoothed, bluish-green leaves. The lower leaves are pinnately lobed and the upper leaves are lanceolate. Alternate and stalked. Common in England except the far north. Unusual everywhere else in the British Isles. It's identity can be mistaken for many of the other mustard species.
Almost scentless.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Brassica nigra, also known as black mustard, is a annual plant that belongs to the mustard family. It is native to the Mediterranean region and parts of Asia and is commonly found in waste places, roadsides, and cultivated fields. The plant can grow up to 2 meters tall, produces yellow flowers and elongated seed pods that contains small black seeds that are used for making the mustard. The seeds have been used for centuries to make a spicy condiment, and the plant has also been used for medicinal purposes. Black mustard seeds are also used for oil extraction and as a cover crop.


Black mustard, scientifically known as Brassica nigra, is a plant species belonging to the Brassicaceae family, which includes a wide variety of popular vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Originally native to the Mediterranean region, black mustard is now widely cultivated in various parts of the world, including Asia, Europe, and North America, for its culinary and medicinal properties.

Description and Characteristics

Black mustard is an annual plant that can grow up to 2 meters tall. Its leaves are long and deeply lobed, with a coarse texture and a bright green color. The plant produces yellow flowers that bloom in clusters during the summer months, followed by elongated seedpods that contain small, round seeds. The seeds are the most commonly used part of the plant, either whole or ground, and have a pungent, spicy flavor and a distinct aroma.

Culinary Uses

Black mustard seeds are a staple in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisines, where they are used to flavor various dishes, including curries, pickles, and sauces. The seeds can be used whole or ground, and are often toasted or fried in oil before being added to a recipe to enhance their flavor. Black mustard seeds are also a common ingredient in condiments such as mustard, horseradish, and wasabi, where they add a sharp, tangy taste.

Medicinal Properties

Black mustard seeds have long been used in traditional medicine for their various health benefits. They are a rich source of antioxidants, which help protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals, and also contain high levels of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, and potassium. Black mustard seeds have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and may also have anti-cancer effects, although further research is needed to confirm these findings.


While black mustard seeds are generally safe for consumption in small amounts, they can cause digestive problems and skin irritation if consumed in large quantities or applied topically. People with certain medical conditions, such as thyroid problems or allergies, should also exercise caution when using black mustard products.

Black mustard is a versatile and flavorful plant that has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes for centuries. Its distinctive taste and aroma make it a popular ingredient in many dishes around the world, while its potential health benefits make it a valuable addition to any diet. As with any food or supplement, however, it is important to use black mustard in moderation and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or underlying health conditions.

Black Mustard in History

Black mustard has been used in various cultures throughout history for its culinary and medicinal properties. In ancient Rome, black mustard seeds were ground and mixed with wine to create a condiment similar to modern-day mustard. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, black mustard seeds were used to treat a wide range of ailments, including respiratory problems and skin infections. The seeds were also used in traditional Chinese medicine to stimulate digestion and promote sweating.

Black Mustard in Agriculture

Black mustard is a popular cover crop in agriculture due to its ability to suppress weeds and its beneficial effects on soil health. The plant produces chemicals called glucosinolates, which can break down into compounds that help control soil-borne pests and diseases. Black mustard is also a fast-growing plant that can help prevent erosion and improve soil structure.

Black Mustard in Ecology

Black mustard is considered an invasive species in many parts of the world, including North America and Australia, where it has been introduced as a crop or accidentally escaped cultivation. In these regions, black mustard can outcompete native plant species and disrupt natural ecosystems. However, in its native range, black mustard plays an important role in supporting pollinators and other beneficial insects.

Black Mustard as a Natural Remedy

Black mustard has been used in traditional medicine for its various health benefits. It is commonly used as a natural remedy for a range of conditions, including respiratory issues, skin infections, and digestive problems. The seeds are often used to create poultices, compresses, or oils that can be applied topically to reduce inflammation and pain.

Black mustard oil is also commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine for massage and other therapies. It is believed to have warming and stimulating effects on the body, and is sometimes used to relieve joint pain and stiffness.

Black Mustard in Cuisine

Black mustard seeds are commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, where they add a pungent, spicy flavor to a range of dishes. The seeds are often toasted or fried in oil before being added to recipes, which enhances their flavor and aroma. Black mustard seeds are a key ingredient in many curry blends, and are often used to flavor pickles and chutneys.

Black mustard is also used to create various condiments, such as mustard, horseradish, and wasabi. These condiments are typically made by mixing ground black mustard seeds with vinegar or other ingredients, which creates a tangy, spicy flavor that complements a range of foods.

Overall, black mustard is a versatile plant that has many potential uses in both traditional and modern settings. Its distinctive flavor and aroma make it a valuable ingredient in many cuisines, while its potential health benefits make it a popular natural remedy. While it should be used with caution and in moderation, black mustard is a fascinating plant species that has been valued by humans for centuries.

Black Mustard in Science and Research

Research has been conducted on the potential health benefits of black mustard, particularly its seeds and oil. Some studies have found that black mustard seeds may have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects, and may help regulate blood sugar levels. The seeds may also have anticancer properties, although more research is needed to confirm this.

Black mustard oil has also been studied for its potential benefits. One study found that applying black mustard oil to the skin may help reduce pain and inflammation in people with osteoarthritis. Another study found that black mustard oil may have antibacterial properties and could potentially be used as a natural alternative to antibiotics.

Black Mustard and Sustainability

Black mustard is a valuable plant species from a sustainability perspective. As a cover crop, it can help prevent soil erosion, reduce weed growth, and improve soil health. Additionally, black mustard is a fast-growing plant that requires little input from farmers in terms of water and fertilizer, making it a more sustainable crop option than some other plants.

Black mustard may also have potential as a biopesticide. The glucosinolates found in black mustard seeds are toxic to some pests, and may be used as a natural pest control method in agriculture.


Black mustard is a versatile plant with a range of potential uses in both traditional and modern settings. Its seeds and oil have been used for centuries for their culinary and medicinal properties, and recent research has begun to explore their potential health benefits. Additionally, black mustard is a valuable plant species from a sustainability perspective, and may have potential as a biopesticide. While it should be used with caution and in moderation, black mustard is a fascinating and valuable plant that deserves further study and exploration.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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