Sisymbrium officinale

wild rocket


Sisymbrium officinale

(L.) Scop. 1772

pronounced: sis-SIM-bree-um off-ick-in-AH-lee

(Brassicaceae — the mustard family)


common names: wild rocket, hedge mustard

Σισυμβριον (sisymbrion) was the ancient Greek name for mint or thyme; officinale is from the Latin officina, a workshop, laboratory.

This is a native of Europe and North Africa, now well-established across much of the world. Originally a plant of roadsides and waste land, it is increasingly becoming cultivated as a salad plant, often alongside its cousin Eruca vesicaria, garden rocket. The leaves and seeds of wild rocket, often gathered from the road verges, are much used as condiments in Northern Europe, particularly in Norway, Denmark and Germany. The leaves have rather a bitter flavour, and, as well as being used in salads, are cooked as a pot herb, and the seeds are used to make a mustard paste. The plant grows wild in parts of eastern and southern Australia, where it is a common weed of wasteland, roadsides and disturbed habitats. It is suspected of tainting milk.

It is a bristly annual or biennial herb, the stem wiry with very short internodes. The basal leaves form a deeply divided rosette, and are up to about 10 cm long, pinnatisect with 3 – 5 pairs of toothed lobes and a large terminal lobe, and are petiolate. The middle and upper stem leaves are smaller, with or without a short petiole, much less divided, and alternate, one leaf per node. The whole plant often has a grey-green appearance.

The flowers are small and in racemes with 4 yellow to pale yellow petals 2 – 4 mm long, in the shape of a cross. There are no bracts. There are 4 free sepals, 4 – 6 stamens, the inner ones being longer than the outer. The plant is self-pollinating, and, if allowed to fruit, will spread quite rapidly by dispersed seeds.

The fruit is a conical siliqua up to 2 cm in length, without a beak, held close to the stem on a very short and stout pedicel. Each locule has several seeds about 1.5 mm long.

The larvae of the Cabbage White Pieris rapae feed on the plant.

dangerous 2The ancient Greeks believed that wild rocket was an antidote to virtually all poisons. In folk medicine, an infusion of the leaves was used to soothe sore throats – in many places the plant was known as singer’s plant. In Tibetan medicine it is used to treat food poisoning. Herbalists use the juice and the flowers to treat, among other conditions, bronchitis and stomach ailments; but excessive doses can adversely affect the heart, so great care should be taken with medicinal use of the plant.


Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2012
Page last updated 5th April 2019