Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Center (ECORC), Ottawa, Ontario, K1A OC6 Canada;



The details of a new electronic information-based product to support plant breeders, biotechnologists and plant regulators of canola and mustard crops is presented.  The first product “Brassicaceae (Cruciferae) of Canada”  provides: 1) taxonomic information on 248 taxa in Canada: accepted scientific names, synonyms, and common names; 2) distributional data, including  both reference-based distributions and specimen-based maps obtained from ca. 17,000 herbarium specimens; and 3) additional biological information on chromosome numbers, native or introduced status in Canada, life form and ecology.  The electronic product is interactive, allowing for ready access to the information and future updates [url address:].  This product is one of a series of relational databases in a larger  project on Global Inventory for the Family [an outline will be provided].  The Brassicaceae is one of the ten most economically important plant families.  Cruciferous crops display enormous diversity and are used as sources of oil, vegetables, mustard condiments, and fodder. The potential of wild crucifer germplasm to provide novel sources of economic traits in breeding programs has increased dramatically with the development of biotechnology.  Inventories of genetic diversity, such as this product, will facilitate breeding programs, increase the efficiency of locating traits and seed for use in germplasm development in the canola and mustard industries, as well as the growing areas of diversification and/or alternative use of crucifer crops for molecular farming, value-added or nutraceutical crops, and phytoremediation.


KEYWORDS: Cruciferae: germplasm inventory, genetic inventory, bioinformatics



The Brassicaceae, which contains about 3500 species and 350 genera, is one of the ten most economically important plant families.  Crop brassicas display enormous diversity and are used as sources of oil, vegetables, mustard condiments, and fodder.  Those of particular importance in Canada are: Brassica napus, B. rapa, and B. juncea as sources of canola and industrial oil.  Vegetable crops include cole-crops (Brassica oleracea), swede or rutabaga (Brassica napus), turnip (Brassica rapa) and radish (Raphanus sativus).  Condiments include Indian mustard (Brassica juncea), white mustard (Sinapis alba), and horseradish (Armoracia rusticana).


Several species are weeds in Canada.  These include: Alliaria petiolata, Arabidopsis thaliana, Barbarea vulgaris, Berteroa incana, Brassica juncea, B. nigra, B. rapa, Bunias orientalis, Camelina alyssum, C. microcarpa, C.sativa, Capsella bursa‑pastoris, Cardaria draba, C. pubescens, Conringia orientalis, Descurainia incana, D. pinnata, D. sophia, Diplotaxis muralis, D. tenuifolia, Erucastrum gallicum, Erysimum asperum, E. cheiranthoides, E. hieracifolium, E.  inconspicuum, Hesperis matronalis, Lepidium campestre, L. densiflorum, L. perfoliatum, L. virginicum, Nasturtium officinale, Neslia paniculata, Raphanus raphanistrum, Rorippa austriaca, R. sylvestris, Sinapis alba, S. arvensis, Sisymbrium altissimum, S. loeselii, S. officinale, Thlaspi arvense, and Turritis glabra.


The potential of wild germplasm to provide novel sources of economic traits in Canadian plant breeding programs has increased dramatically in the last 5‑10 years with the development of biotechnology and its utilization as a breeding tool.  Wild crucifer species have already provided novel sources of important agronomic traits, such as male sterility and pest resistance for canola.  Inventories of genetic diversity, such as demonstrated in this electronic database, will facilitate crop breeding programs.  This database is designed specifically to improve the availability and retrieval of information on Canadian species.  This knowledge‑based publication will increase the efficiency of locating traits and seed for use in germplasm development in the canola and mustard industries as well as cruciferous crop diversification in areas of molecular farming, value-added/nutraceutical crops, and phytoremediation.



This electronic product provides information on all crucifer species in Canada, Alaska and Greenland.  It includes: taxonomic information, distributional data and information on chromosome numbers, life form and ecology.  Data is presented for a total of 223 species in Canada, including 18 species with more than one infraspecific taxon, for a total of 248 taxa.  Of these 223 species, 137 are native, 8 are either native or introduced; 59 are introduced and naturalized; and 19 are introduced and adventive.   The database includes seven taxa which have been reported in error for Canada, and 8 taxa restricted to Alaska.  Maps are available for 247 of the 256 taxa covered in the database.


Pick list of names -: Includes all the scientific names used in the taxonomic literature reviewed for this study.  There are a total of 520 taxa names in the picklist [256 accepted names and 264 names which have been placed in synonymy].  A name accepted in the present treatment links directly to its “Information Screen”.  A name rejected into synonymy links first to an intermediary screen that redirects the user to the accepted name and to the relevant “Information Screen”.  This screen is divided into three sections: I. Scientific name; II. Distribution ; and III. Additional Information.


Scientific name - Includes the Accepted  taxonomic combination followed by taxonomic authorit(y)ies and a bibliographic reference to the original publication; Basionym: Taxonomic combination followed by a bibliographic reference to the original publication; Synonyms: [includes only those in the pick list]:Taxonomic combination followed by taxonomic authorit(y)ies and a bibliographic reference to the original publication; Comment: summarizes information on intraspecific taxa in Canada: as subsp. or var.; or misapplication of name in Canada; Common Name: English.


Distribution - Data includes both a reference-based and specimen-based clickable map are given for each taxon.  The reference-based distribution: provides an interpretative summary of the distribution of a given taxon according to the major references indicated below: Boivin (1966), Mulligan: Numerous references on Canadian species,  Rollins (1993),  Sabourin et al. (1991), Scoggan  (1978) as well as other provincial and regional floristic accounts for Canada.  The specimen-based clickable map: includes data from ca. 17,000 herbarium specimens.   An effort has been made to confirm at least one annotated record for each province.  The number of  records are given for each map.  Dots on the maps are clickable objects that call the database records vouchering them.  For each record the following data is available: locality, latitude and longitude, habitat, collector(s), collection number, collection date, and herbarium source.


Additional Information - Includes for each taxon a summary of chromosome numbers; status in Canada: native and/or introduced, naturalized and/or adventive; annual, biennial, perennial  life form; and ecology based on herbarium specimen habitat data.



The above checklist of Canadian crucifers is part of a more extensive electronic inventory on germplasm resources of the Brassicaceae or Crucifer family.  This inventory will be the first complete compendium to the genetic resources of this important plant family.  The last comprehensive treatment in the family by Schulz (1936) was published in German and Latin over 60 years ago and was limited to the generic level.  A species checklist has never existed for this economically important group of plants.  Taxonomically the family is a difficult one, and considerable expertise is required to identify the species (Al-Shehbaz 1984).  Up-to-date biological information on germplasm resources in the family is needed. A first step in this direction was the preparation of a Guide to the Wild Germplasms of the Tribe Brassiceae (Warwick et al. 1993-94), which included information on 200 species.


The proposed Family Electronic inventory will be in the form of interlinked databases containing specific key information about each species using innovative techniques available only in the electronic medium. These include links to descriptions, illustrations, geographical and ecological information, chromosome numbers, and where seed may be obtained.  The inventory design consists of ten relational (i.e. interlinked) databases which include: 1. Generic Checklist; 2. Generic Descriptions; 3. Species Checklist; 4. Checklist of Canadian Crucifers; 5. Distribution and Flora Index for Species; 6. Chromosome Number Index; 7. Seed Sources and 8. Guide to potentially economically useful traits.  All files will be linked to a single Master Reference List (9.) and to database 10, a recently completed compilation on trait genetics for species in the family (Séguin-Swartz et al. 1998). Information based on current phylogenies of species relationships will be incorporated into the inventory, which is likely to serve as a Reference Standard for decades. This is an untapped resource base in which, information from the literature on potential economically useful traits in each species will be compiled, but more importantly the inventory will set the future framework for efficient screening of traits in wild germplasm.  The inventory is designed for multi-disciplinary research use, aimed at plant breeders and biotechnologists, germplasm or genebank conservation managers and other non-taxonomists and will be offered freely over the World Wide Web.



Al‑Shehbaz, I.A. 1984. The tribes of Cruciferae (Brassicaceae) in the southeastern United States. J. Arnold Arbor. Harv. Univ. 65: 343‑373.

Boivin, B. (1966) Énumération des plantes du Canada.  Naturaliste Canadien 93: 583-646.

Rollins, R. C. (1993) The Cruciferae of Continental North America.  Stanford University Press, Stanford, California., 976 pp.

Sabourin, A., Bertrand, M., Auger, P., Bonkowski. M. & Paquette, D.  (1991) Guide des crucifères sauvages de l'est du Canada (Québec, Ontario et Maritimes).  Les Amis du Jardin Botanique, Montréal, Québec. 249 pp.

Schulz, O.E. 1936. Cruciferae. In: Engler, A. and K. Prantl, K. (H. Harms) (Eds.), Die Natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien, 2nd Ed., Band 17‑b, Wilhelm Engelmann, Leipzig, pp. 227‑658.

Scoggan, H.G. (1978) The flora of Canada. Cruciferae.  Nat. Mus. Nat. Sci. (Ottawa), Publ. Bot. 7. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. Vol. 3. pp. 778-848.

Séguin-Swartz, G, S.I. Warwick, and R. Scarth. 1998.  Cruciferae: Compendium of Trait Genetics. Agriculture and Agri-Food Research Branch Technical Bulletin,  No. 1997-3E and []

Warwick, S.I et al. 1993-94. Guide to the wild germplasm of Brassica and allied crops. Part I. Taxonomy and genome status in the tribe Brassiceae (Cruciferae). Part II. Chromosome numbers in the tribe Brassiceae (Cruciferae).  Part III. Interspecific and intergeneric hybridizations in the tribe Brassiceae (Cruciferae).  Part IV. Wild species in the tribe Brassiceae (Cruciferae) as sources of agronomic traits.  Part V. Life history and geographical data for wild species in the tribe Brassiceae (Cruciferae). Agriculture Canada Res. Branch Tech. Bull. 1993-!4E, 15-E, 16-E, 17-E and1994‑2E.  180 pp.