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Brassica napus (Rape, Oilseed rape, Canola)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid II > Order: Brassicales > Family: Brassicaceae > Genus: Brassica

Canola crop, in fields north of Durbanville, Western Cape. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ]

Brassica napus is native to Eurasia and has a number of varieties that are cultivated widely round the world for the production of vegetable oil. Natural rapeseed contains high concentrations of erucic acid and glucosinolates, both of which are substances that are not healthy if eaten in large amounts although their exact health effects (positive and/or negative) are not altogether clear. Erucic acid is used in oil paints and for transmission oils and varieties of rapeseed with high erucic acid are cultivated for this market. Canola is a variety of Brassica napus developed in Canada that contains low concentrations of erucic acid and glucosinolates and the name is derived from the words  CAnadian Oilseed Low_Acid. It is grown mainly for the production of cooking oil and Canola margarine and has been cultivated in South Africa since 1994. A transgenic variety of Canola has been produced that enables farmers to spray the herbicide Roundup to control weeds without adverse affects to the oilseed plant. There has been a controversy over the ability of such transgenic varieties to crosspollinate with wild species similar to Brassica napus that grow in the vicinity of the crops.



  • McGeoch, M.A., Kalwij, J.M. and Rhodes, J.I. 2009. A spatial assessment of Brassica napus gene flow potential to wild and weedy relatives in the fynbos biome. South African Journal of Science 105: 109-115.


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