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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Flixweed  (Descurainia sophia)

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Life stages of Flixweed flowering stem seeds infestation seedling at 4-leaf stage rosette stage

Flixweed, sometimes called tansy mustard, is a winter or summer annual or biennial broadleaf. It is found throughout California to about 8500 feet (2600 m) and inhabits agricultural land and other disturbed areas. Flixweed can be fatally toxic to cattle when the flowering plants are consumed in quantity. Flixweed populations appear to be increasing in the Mojave Desert.


Roadsides, fields, vineyards, orchards, agronomic crop fields, gardens, disturbed desert areas, canyon bottoms, and disturbed, unmanaged places.


Cotyledons (seed leaves) are hairless, lance to football shaped, and small, up to 1/3 of an inch (7 mm) long. The stalk below the cotyledon is usually inconspicuous and covered with minute, branched hairs. The stalk stubs remain when the cotyledons are shed. The first leaf pair often appear opposite to one another on the stem. The first leaves are stalked, have three lobes, and are covered with tiny, branched hairs. Later leaves are one or two lobed and are alternate to one another along the stem.

Young plant

Young plants exist as basal rosettes until the flower stem develops.

Mature plant

Mature flixweed can reach over 2 feet (0.8 m) tall. Stems may be branched, starting from the middle of the main stem or above, or unbranched. Leaves are alternate to one another along the stem and are divided into leaflets (leaflets are either lobed or divided again). Leaves are sparsely to densely covered with tiny, branched hairs or a mixture of branched and simple hairs.  The similar Sisymbrium species, tumble mustard and London rocket, have simple hairs rather than the branched hairs of flixweed. Flixweed has very finely divided leaves whose leaflets are often finely divided once or twice again. However, most Sisymbrium species have undivided, lobed leaves or leaves divided into leaflets that may be lobed, but are not divided again.


Flowers bloom from March through August, depending on the region. Erect branches have long flowering stems with yellow flower clusters.


Fruits consist of linear, nearly cylindrical pods, about 2/5 to 1-2/5 inches (10–35 mm) long and less than 1/25 of an inch (1 mm) wide. They are straight or slightly curved upward, with a tiny beaklike tip.


There are roughly ten to twenty seeds per pod. Seeds are tiny, less than 1/17 of an inch (1.5 mm), orange brown, and become sticky when moistened.


Reproduces by seed.

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