PLANT OF THE WEEK
Dr. T. Ombrello - UCC Biology Department
Flowering Cabbage and Kale, Ornamental Cabbage and Kale, and Decorative Cabbage and Kale.
Scientific name: Brassica oleracea
Explanation of scientific name:
the ancient Latin name for cabbage.
oleracea - vegetable -like.
Flowering Cabbage and Kale
are ornamental versions of the cabbage and kale that we use as edible
vegetables. They have been
hybridized and selected for
ornamental features including bright foliage colors and compact growth. Growing
best in cool weather, the seeds are sown in the early summer and several month
old plants are transplanted into the garden in the late summer or early fall.
the weather cools, the purple, pink or white colors of the leaves become quite
pronounced. The plants can tolerate cold weather, and in mild winters can look
attractive up until spring arrives.
The name “flowering”
cabbage and kale is a misnomer since the ornamental parts of the plant we value
are really just fancy leaves that superficially resemble the petals of flowers.
The plants can and often will eventually produce real flowers if left in the
garden. As biennials they only bloom after experiencing winter conditions after
their first season of growth. Long stalks bearing small yellow flowers will
develop when the weather warms in the spring. The flowers are not especially
attractive and the foliage is usually quite ragged after surviving the winter.
Most people remove the plants and deposit them in a compost pile long before
|A "white" flowering cabbage growing on the UCC campus in Cranford, NJ.||A "purple" flowering cabbage growing on the UCC campus in Cranford, NJ.|
The species to which
flowering cabbage and kale belongs is truly fascinating.
Wild Brassica oleracea
is native to the coastal regions of Europe, from England to Italy, and still
persists there today. The
ancient Greeks and Romans grew it for food, but when it first was cultivated
remains lost in history. The diversity of form within this species, that is the
result of selection over the millennia by people, is almost unmatched in the
plant world. All of the following are members of Brassica oleracea:
Cabbage, Kale, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Kohlrabi, and Cauliflower. As different as these plants are from each other, they are just variations of the same basic form. For example, a head of cabbage is really a large terminal bud at the end of a stem, while Brussels sprouts are really side or axillary buds on a stem without a large terminal bud. Recent DNA studies have confirmed the close relationship amongst these plants, and support the plant taxonomists who have classified all these types as varieties of the same species. There are some practical applications for this knowledge of plant taxonomy. If a family member will not even try eating brussels sprouts, but enjoys cabbage or another member of this group, you can tell them with an air of authority that they are really the same species. You might even try to convince someone that kohlrabi is just another type of broccoli.