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Wild Radish

Wild Radish In Bloom During Winter

By Les Harrison

The natural tri-colors of Wakulla County’s winter are vividly on display now. The muted tones of green, tan and brown represent the evergreens and the deciduous species.

The rainbow shades of brilliant spring hues will be here in a few weeks, but for now only a few plants offer any variation to the subdued tints. These heralds of the growing season to come have had to work hard during the winter of 2018 with its frequent frosty morns.

For a minority of plants though, the frigid temperatures and short days are the ideal environment to sprout, bloom and grow next year’s seed.  Wild radish is one such plant which is currently in bloom.

Wild Radish

Wild radish are setting seen now in Wakulla County. The seed pods do not shatter easily shatter, instead they must decay before distributing the seed.
Photo by Les Harrison

Raphanus raphanistrum, the scientific name for wild radish, is a native of northern Europe and northern Asia.  This annual flourishing in marginal soils has spread to most of the world, especially in areas with disturbed soil.

The term Raphanus has a Greek origin meaning quickly appearing.  This accurately describes the rapid emergence and growth, when the soil temperature falls below 65 degrees and enough moisture is present.

Bloom color of wild radishes can vary.  Yellow and white are the most commonly encountered colors, but occasionally lavender is on display.

When first emerging, the wild radish’s leaves are kidney shaped and covered with hairs, top, bottom and on the stems.  The plant may reach three feet in height, but will rapidly decline with the return of warm weather.

Wild radish is a member of the Brassicaceae plant family along with cabbage, turnip, and mustard. Unlike its cultivated relatives, this species is not deliberately grown in gardens or fields.

Wild Radishes Can Be Problematic

While usually seen on roadsides by most people, wild radish is one of the most common and problematic pasture weeds in the Florida Panhandle. It is found throughout the state and can be a serious pest in other crops including peanut, corn, and winter vegetables.

Wild radish has a thick fruit pod from which seed do not shatter or easily scatter. The pods in this species must decay before the seed can be released to germinate.

The first true leaves of wild radish are slightly serrated and indented about two to three times as long as wide. As the leaves mature, the serrations will be increasingly jagged and more deeply indented. The stiff hairs remain throughout the plant’s life, continuing the bristly feel and appearance.

With the temperatures and day length increasing, this plant is currently bolting. Bolting is a process in which the regions of the stem between leaves begin to lengthen and a flower stalk forms at the top.

In wild radish, multiple flower heads form on several branches arising from a single flower stalk.  In Wakulla County the seed pods have set but are not yet mature.

The most effective way to control wild radish is to prevent it from ever germinating. This may be accomplished by eliminating the plant before it sets seed and by maintaining a dense carpet of grass which out competes this weed.

This strategy is highly effective in pastures and lawns which are frequently monitored, but difficult in wild areas or even road shoulders because of this plant rapid growth pattern.  At least the bright blooms are an unmistakable indicator of its presence which requires attention.

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