Wild Turnip (Brassica rapa) Identification

Wild Turnip / Autumn / Winter / Spring / Edible

Here we’re looking at the Wid Turnip, however there are several subspecies of Brassica rapa as it has been developed by humans into many types of vegetable and has returned to the wild many times as a feral plant.  Cultivated forms include turnip, napa cabbage, bomdong, bok choy and rape.  The subspecies campestris is believed native to the British Isles, though the ancestral B. rapa probably originated 4000 to 6000 years ago in the Hindu Kush area of Central Asia.

Common Names

Wild Turnip

Botanical Name

Brassica rapa

Scientific Classification

Kingdom – Plantae

Order – Brassicales

Family – Brassicaceae

Genus – Brassica

Known Hazards

None known

Range and Distribution

Found throughout the British Isles but rare in Scotland.


Weed of cultivation, waste ground, roadsides, banks of streams, and rivers.

Physical Characteristics of Wild Turnip

A hairy, upright, annual or biennial, up to 100cm.


Basal leaves are stalked and coarsely hairy, up to 40cm long, bright green, deeply indented with a large end lobe.  Upper stem leaves are hairless, greyish green with bottom lobes clasping the stem.


The yellow flowers form dense inflorescences extending above the flower buds.  Petals 6-13mm, about twice as long as sepals.



30-65mm, beak without seed.


Similar Species

Similar to rape and other wild mustards but rape flowers are below or at the same height as the unopened buds and all leaves are dull grey-green.


Edible Uses of Wild Turnips

Cultivated turnip leaves have a mild, very slightly cabbagey flavour and were once a popular salad green and vegetable.  They are still used in the United States, Italy and France.  The yellow flowers are sweet with a slight mustardy bite; they make a good addition to summer salads or a garnish.  Roots are not as swollen as cultivated turnips but can still be quite large; they should be collected from first-year plants before they produce a flowering stem.  The flavour is like a cultivated turnip but more intense.


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