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Desert Diary
Plants/London Rocket


Ah, London Rocket! Sounds esoteric, doesn't it, perhaps bringing visions of an updated version of the Concorde spanning the Atlantic in minutes instead of hours. No such luck! London Rocket is the common name of Sisymbrium irio, a prolific weed in our area. Adding insult to injury, it isn't even a native weed, having been introduced from southern Europe.

Now, you'll remember that a weed is merely a plant growing where you don't want it to grow. Unfortunately, when it comes to this member of the mustard family, virtually every place it grows is a place where you don't want it. Lawns, drainage ditches, alfalfa fields—any place there's a little piece of open ground is fair game. Sprouting by the thousands during early winter, it's in full bloom by late winter and early spring. In irrigated areas, it may continue to grow throughout the summer, competing with crops.

Many weeds have at least some redeeming qualities. About the best we can do here is appreciate a little green in the depth of winter.
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

London Rocket plant

A well-watered London Rocket (Sisymbrium irio) plant. Most of the leaves are obscured by the developing fruits (thin, pod-like structures accounting for the "frilly" look of much of the plant), and the plant is nearly through its flowering cycle. Photograph by A.H. Harris, Socorro, TX, 29 March 2002.



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