Common Tansymustard
Descurainia sophia (L.) Webb ex Prantl
Family: Brassicaceae, Mustard
Genus: Descurainia
Other names: flixweed, herb sophia
Nomenclature: sophia = named after Sophia
Nativity / Invasiveness: introduced plant, weed
Edible plant
Medicinal plant

General: annual, rarely biennial, with fine, star-shaped hairs, often grayish, non-glandular, 30-100 cm tall, usually branched above and occasionally also from the base.

Leaves: alternate, numerous, 2-10 cm long, generally oblong-ovate to oblanceolate, short-stalked, mostly decompound into linear segments scarcely 1 mm broad.

Flowers: inconspicuous, numerous in clusters often half the total height of the plant. Flower stalks slender, about 10 mm long, ascending. The 4 sepals erect, 2-2.5 mm long, greenish. The 4 petals yellowish, very narrow, spatulate, usually shorter than the sepals. Stamens protruding. March-July.

Fruits: pods, nearly erect, cylindrical, linear, 2-3 cm long, 1-1.5 mm broad, hardly constricted between seeds, rounded at the tip, the stigma nearly stalkless. Valves 1-nerved their full length and often with less evident side nerves. The mid-partition longitudinally 3-nerved. Seeds 12-25 per cell, in 1 row, about 1 mm long.


Disturbed areas and stream banks, in most parts of MT. A widespread, weedy plant introduced from Europe, From AK to CA, e. to the Atlantic coast.
Edible Uses

The young leaves of common tansymustard are edible cooked. They have a bitter flavor and have been used as a potherb. The seeds are edible raw or cooked. Having a pungent taste, it is used as a mustard substitute. The seeds can be ground into a powder, mixed with cornmeal and used to make bread, or as a thickening for soups etc. It can also be sprouted and added to salads etc. A nourishing and cooling beverage can be made by mixing the ground up seeds with water to make a thin batter. The seed contains 25.5 - 29.9% protein, 26.9 - 39.7% fat and 3.6 - 3.9% ash on a zero moisture basis.

Medicinal Uses

This plant was used medicinally by the Navajo and Paiute tribes among others. A poultice of the plant has been used to ease the pain of toothache. The juice of the plant has been used in the treatment of chronic coughs, hoarseness and ulcerated sore throats. A strong decoction of the plant has proved excellent in the treatment of asthma. The flowers and the leaves are antiscorbutic and astringent. The seed is considered to have agents that are a tonic for the heart, that are locally soothing and softening, urine-inducing, inducing the removal (coughing up) of mucous secretions from the lungs, fever-reducing, and a tonic. It is used in the treatment of asthma, fevers, bronchitis, edema and dysentery. It is also used in the treatment of worms and calculus complaints. It is decocted with other herbs for treating various ailments. The seeds have formed a special remedy for sciatica. A poultice of the ground up seeds has been used on burns and sores.

Other Uses

A semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed. The leaves have been stored with corn to prevent it from spoiling.

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