Radish running wild in the park

P1030937 (Custom)P1030939 (Custom)These weedy-looking plants with white/yellow/purple blossoms are probably the most plentiful flowering species in the park.  They’re found in just about every micro-climate in the 90 acres.  But what are they?  I took a sample to Berkeley Hort, where the expert behind the sales counter nailed it immediately:  Wild Radish.  Latin name Raphanus raphanistrum.  It’s a close relative of the cultivated radish, Raphanus sativus.  So close that they hybridize.  It’s believed to have originated in Asia, or maybe in the Mediterranean, but long ago established itself here, there, and just about everywhere in the world.  It favors disturbed soil and neglected areas.  It’s not poisonous.  In fact, the young plant’s tap root is edible, like a radish, but probably very tough and bitter.  The root drives deep into the soil, enabling the plant to survive dry conditions.  Frost rarely kills it.  It’s moderately invasive.  It blooms early in spring and keeps on blooming till late summer.  Its nectar supports bees and other pollinators.  In cultivated fields and gardens, it’s considered a weed.  In Cesar Chavez Park, where nothing has been purposely planted since 1994, it’s a much appreciated touch of color and host to beneficial bugs.
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