Tower mustard (Arabis glabra)

loading
Tower mustards in flower
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Tower mustard fact file

Tower mustard description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumAnthophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderCapparales
FamilyBrassicaceae
GenusArabis

Tower mustard is a very distinct plant which flowers from May to June. It has an unbranched stem, sometimes tinged with violet, and is slightly hairy towards the base. The base rosette of leaves resemble a dandelion and the flower petals are pale yellow.

Size
Height: 30-100 cm
Top

Tower mustard biology

This plant is considered to be biennial or, sometimes, a short-lived perennial. Plants germinate in spring and spend at least one season in a vegetative state before flowering.

Tower mustard can produce large quantities of seed which seem to be capable of lying dormant in the soil for years before germinating. This has led to appearances of the plant on sites after long periods of absence.

Top

Tower mustard range

Widespread in Europe and across Asia up to a latitude of 70 degrees north, in the UK tower mustard is declining in numbers as a native species. Since 1980 it has only been recorded from some 30 sites in the Breckland regions of Norfolk and Suffolk, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Middlesex, Surrey, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. There are some records from Wales but none within the last 20 years.

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
Top

Tower mustard habitat

Tower mustard prefers free-draining, sandy soils in grassy and waste places over chalk or limestone. Described as an 'opportunistic species', it seems able to colonise areas which are extensively grazed and occasionally managed as arable land, such as were traditionally found in the Breckland region of East Anglia. It is also found in conifer plantations which are being clear-felled.

Top

Tower mustard status

Classified as Vulnerable in the UK.

Top

Tower mustard threats

The factors contributing to the plant's disappearance, include habitat neglect, over-grazing by rabbits and building development. The greatest factor, however, seems to have been the loss of open habitat on heathland or rough sandy terrain in South-east England. This has been caused by agricultural intensification, when areas of 'waste' land have been put under crops. In the plant's main stronghold of the East Anglian Breckland, much of the habitat that would have supported the tower mustard has been put under the plough. On land formally considered unproductive, farmers have been able, using modern nitrate-based fertilisers, to produce regular crops throughout the year. Together with the use of herbicides, this has effectively reduced the species' numbers to dangerous levels.

Top

Tower mustard conservation

In partnership with Plantlife's 'Back from the Brink' project, English Nature has placed the tower mustard under its Species Recovery Programme. There is also a UK Biodiversity Action Plan for the plant.

Part of the Action Plan recommended a survey of all the known sites and in 1999 this was carried out. The report's aim was to establish the true status of tower mustard, evaluate the current management of the existing sites and make recommendations for future regimes, and to make an ecological assessment and fill in the gaps about our knowledge of the plant and its requirements.

Actions at some of the sites have concentrated on the removal of scrub, together with increased grazing to reduce the competition from more vigorous plant species, and create areas of disturbed ground. Seed from the plants has been stored and, when conditions at known former sites are more favourable, this seed will be distributed over the site or germinated plants re-introduced.

It is also hoped that a reserve population of tower mustard plants will be established to provide a nursery stock of plants for re-introduction programmes, and from which, by further study, our knowledge of this species can be improved.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
Top

Find out more

For more information on the tower mustard see:

Top

Authentication

Information supplied by English Nature.
http://www.english-nature.org.uk

Top

Glossary

Biennial
A plant that lives for two years and typically flowers only in the second year.
Colonise
Establish a colony (group of organisms living together).
Germination
The beginning of growth, usually following a period of dormancy and in response to favourable conditions. For example, the sprouting of a seedling from a seed.
Perennial
Plants that live for at least three seasons; after an initial period they produce flowers once a year.
Re-introduction
An attempt to establish a native species back into an area where it previously occurred.
Top

References

X
Close

Image credit

Tower mustards in flower  
Tower mustards in flower

© Bob Gibbons / Natural Image

Natural Image
24 Newborough Rd
Wimborne
Dorset
BH21 1RD
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1202 675 916
Fax: +44 (0) 1202 848 419
bobgibbons@btinternet.com

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Tower mustard (Arabis glabra) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog RSS