Posted on 30 May 2009 by

Brassica Oleracea – One Species With Many Faces

kale1By Vanessa Richins

As I proudly proclaimed to everyone, I’m a garden geek.

There are so many cool facts you can learn about the plant world that are quite surprising.

I think it makes gardening itself much more fun.

One of my favorite facts:

What do broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale and kohlrabi have in common?

They are all the same species.

How can that be possible, you ask? All of these plants are too similar, as far as genetics go, to be sorted out into their own species.

Botanists sort out all the different plants according to how closely they are related. It starts with the Kingdom (which includes all plants) and gets more specific, down to the individual plant level of the Species. The levels of classification for these vegetables are all:

  • Kingdom (Plantae)
  • Phylum (Magnoliophyta)
  • Class (Magnoliopsida)
  • Order (Capparales)
  • Family (Brassicaceae)
  • Genus (Brassica)
  • Species (oleracea)
  • Broccoli: Brassica oleracea var. botrytis
  • Brussel Sprouts: Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera
  • Cabbage: Brassica oleracea var. capitata
  • Cauliflower: Brassica oleracea var.botrytis
  • Collards: Brassica oleracea var. acephala
  • Kale: Brassica oleracea var. acephala
  • Kohlrabi: Brassica oleracea var.gongylodes

Why do they look so different then? It’s just like people – we are the same species, but can look quite different. Over time, natural mutations of the original wild cabbage occurred. Humans noticed them and started growing the different varieties.

As a note, these varieties are not the same as cultivated varieties, abbreviated “cultivar”. Cultivated varieties are those that were bred and created by man.

Even within the varieties, there are more than one plant that share the same name because they are so similar. Broccoli and cauliflower are the same variety, as well as collards and kale.

Have fun and boggle your friends’ minds by telling them about Brassica oleracea.

What’s your favorite bit of garden trivia?

One Response to “Brassica Oleracea – One Species With Many Faces”

  1. Dan and Deanna Says:

    Did not know that they are that closely related. Thank you for the information. Have a good day.
    Dan and Deanna “Marketing Unscrambled”

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