Hedge Mustard, hedge weed, hedgemustard
Description: winter or summer annual
Place of origin: Europe and North Africa
Urban habitat: commonly found on abandoned building sites, along roadsides and highways, waste areas; can thrive in full sun or partial-shade.
Ecological function: disturbance-adapted colonizer of bare ground; food for wildlife.
History: A native of Europe and North Africa, Sisymbrium officinale is now found throughout the world with a widespread range across North America. The plant most likely arrived in North America with the arrival of European colonists, brought over for its long history of edible and medicinal uses. It was believed by ancient Greeks to be an antidote to all poisons. The plant has been used for treatment of stomachaches, constipation, bronchitis, coughs, and was once known as the “singer’s plant” because of its use to treat laryngitis. Several Native American tribes also found uses for the plant, consuming it as food and using it medicinally in ways similar to in its native countries. Its young shoots and leaves have been consumed both raw and cooked and its seeds ground into a powder to make gruel or used as a mustard-like herb. Alkaline secretions from its growing roots have been used as a soil conditioner to raise the pH of acidic soils.