Descurainia sophia - (L.) Webb ex Prantl
Herb Sophia
Other English Common Names: Flixweed
Other Common Names: herb sophia
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Descurainia sophia (L.) Webb ex Prantl (TSN 22843)
French Common Names: sagesse-des-chirurgiens
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.138700
Element Code: PDBRA0X050
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Mustard Family
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Capparales Brassicaceae Descurainia
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Descurainia sophia
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: GNR
Global Status Last Changed: 22Mar1994
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
Nation: United States
National Status: NNA
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNA (06Mar2012)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alaska (SNA), Arizona (SNA), Arkansas (SNA), California (SNA), Colorado (SNA), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), District of Columbia (SNA), Georgia (SNR), Hawaii (SNA), Idaho (SNA), Illinois (SNA), Indiana (SNA), Iowa (SNA), Kansas (SNA), Kentucky (SNA), Louisiana (SNA), Maine (SNA), Maryland (SNA), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNA), Minnesota (SNA), Mississippi (SNA), Missouri (SNA), Montana (SNA), Nebraska (SNA), Nevada (SNA), New Hampshire (SNA), New Jersey (SNA), New Mexico (SNA), New York (SNA), North Carolina (SNA), North Dakota (SNA), Ohio (SNA), Oklahoma (SNA), Oregon (SNA), Pennsylvania (SNA), Rhode Island (SNA), South Carolina (SNA), South Dakota (SNA), Tennessee (SNA), Texas (SNA), Utah (SNA), Vermont (SNA), Virginia (SNA), Washington (SNA), West Virginia (SNA), Wisconsin (SNA), Wyoming (SNA)
Canada Alberta (SNA), British Columbia (SNA), Manitoba (SNA), New Brunswick (SNA), Newfoundland Island (SNA), Northwest Territories (SNA), Nova Scotia (SNA), Ontario (SNA), Prince Edward Island (SNA), Quebec (SNA), Saskatchewan (SNA)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The distribution shown may be incomplete, particularly for some rapidly spreading exotic species.

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AKexotic, ARexotic, AZexotic, CAexotic, COexotic, CTexotic, DCexotic, DEexotic, GA, HIexotic, IAexotic, IDexotic, ILexotic, INexotic, KSexotic, KYexotic, LAexotic, MA, MDexotic, MEexotic, MIexotic, MNexotic, MOexotic, MSexotic, MTexotic, NCexotic, NDexotic, NEexotic, NHexotic, NJexotic, NMexotic, NVexotic, NYexotic, OHexotic, OKexotic, ORexotic, PAexotic, RIexotic, SCexotic, SDexotic, TNexotic, TXexotic, UTexotic, VAexotic, VTexotic, WAexotic, WIexotic, WVexotic, WYexotic
Canada ABexotic, BCexotic, MBexotic, NBexotic, NFexotic, NSexotic, NTexotic, ONexotic, PEexotic, QCexotic, SKexotic

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History Not yet assessed
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
Disclaimer: While I-Rank information is available over NatureServe Explorer, NatureServe is not actively developing or maintaining these data. Species with I-RANKs do not represent a random sample of species exotic in the United States; available assessments may be biased toward those species with higher-than-average impact.

I-Rank: Medium/Low
Rounded I-Rank: Medium
I-Rank Reasons Summary: Widespread geographically and ecologically with a persistent seed bank - but not linked to negative ecosystem or species effects, primarily because it is a weak competitor in all but very disturbed habitats.
Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: Medium
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: Medium/Low
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: Medium/Low
I-Rank Review Date: 23Feb2004
Evaluator: Fellows, M.
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: Weedy places in Eurasia (Voss 1985).

Download "An Invasive Species Assessment Protocol: Evaluating Non-Native Plants for their Impact on Biodiversity". (PDF, 1.03MB)
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Screening Questions

S-1. Established outside cultivation as a non-native? YES
Comments: (Kartesz 1999).

S-2. Present in conservation areas or other native species habitat? Yes
Comments: 25-40% frequency in sagebrush communities, 5-66% frequency in pinyon-Utah juniper communities (Howard 2003).

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Inferred - does not establish itself as a bad weed (Nova Scotia) (Roland 1983). Affects water availability to native plants (APRS Implementation Team 2001). Short taproot (Howard 2003). Non-mycorrhizal, so able to colonize sterile sites (Howard 2003). Source of fine fuels that can spread fire (Howard 2003).

2. Impact on Ecological Community Structure:Low significance
Comments: Inferred - does not establish itself as a bad weed (Nova Scotia) (Roland 1983). Annual or biennial herb (Howard 2003).

3. Impact on Ecological Community Composition:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Descurainia sophia will be outcompeted by native or exotic plants in the absence of disturbance (Colorado Natural Areas Program 2000).

4. Impact on Individual Native Plant or Animal Species:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Tripterocalyx micranthus, a rare plant in Alberta (the northern edge of its range), could be impacted by D. sophia ("considerable habitat loss as a result of the great abundance of introduced weedy species including . . . flixweed") (Alberta Sustainable Resource Development 2003). A common species (D. pinnata, a G5 species) could be mistaken for D. sophia (Colorado Natural Areas Program 2000). Fills similar ecological niche as the native D. pinnata although what possible effect D. sophia has not been studied (Howard 2003).

5. Conservation Significance of the Communities and Native Species Threatened:Medium/Low significance
Comments: 25-40% frequency in sagebrush communities, 5-66% frequency in pinyon-Utah juniper communities (Howard 2003).

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: Medium

6. Current Range Size in Nation:High significance
Comments: Throughout US except FL and GA (Kartesz 1999).

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:Insignificant
Comments: Does not establish itself as a bad weed (Nova Scotia) (Roland 1983). Present on Colorado Noxious Weed List A (general weeds) because it is a known pest in alfafa fields (Colorado Natural Areas Program 2000). Present on Minneosota secondary weed list (MDA 1999).

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:High significance
Comments: Potentially in more than 47 ecoregions - inferred from Kartesz (1999) and TNC (2001) distribution.

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:High significance
Comments: Alpine to sub-alpine plant (Kartesz 1999). In MI, roadsides, railroad banks and waste grounds (Voss 1985). Waste ground and meadows (Hough 1983). So widespread, hard to exclude ecosystems (tree, shrub and grass dominated habitats, cold tundra to hot tropical Hawaii, excludes 'wet' systems) (Howard 2003).

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: Medium/Low

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:Unknown

11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:Low significance
Comments: Inferred from current distribution (Kartesz 1999).

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:Medium significance/Insignificant
Comments: Inferred - very small seeds which get mucilaginous when wet, possibly increasing dispersal by animals or adherence to soil (Colorado Natural Areas Program 2000).

13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Tends to spread rapidly in intermountain west (Colorado Natural Areas Program 2000).

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:Insignificant
Comments: No mention of it invading a natural area without prior disturbance (in Colorado Natural Areas Program 2000, APRS Implementation Team 2001 or Howard 2003)

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:Low significance
Comments: Present in Canada (Kartesz 1999). Baja California, South America, Asia, southern Africa, New Zealand (Howard 2003).

16. Reproductive Characteristics:Moderate significance
Comments: As many as 700,000 seeds on large plants; seeds viable up to 4 years (Colorado Natural Areas Program 2000). Seed bank viable for more than 5 years (APRS Implementation Team 2001).

Subrank IV. General Management Difficulty: Medium/Low

17. General Management Difficulty:Moderate significance
Comments: Hand pull when small; adult plants killed by fire (but seeds rapidly recolonize); herbicides (apply during seedling growth phase) (Colorado Natural Areas Program 2000).

18. Minimum Time Commitment:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Seed bank (viable at 4 years) and timing application of herbicide treatment is specific, will need at least 5 years to control (Colorado Natural Areas Program 2000). Seed bank viable for more than 5 years (APRS Implementation Team 2001).

19. Impacts of Management on Native Species:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Inferred - effective management techniques would only occassionally negatively effect natives.

20. Accessibility of Invaded Areas:Unknown

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Alberta Sustainable Resource Development. 2003. Status of the Small-flowered Sand Verbena (Tripterocalyx micranthus) in Alberta. Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Fish and Wildlife Division, and Alberta Conservation Association, Wildlife Status Report No. 48, Edmonton, AB. 24 pgs.

  • Alien plants ranking system (APRS) Implementation Team. 2001a. Alien plants ranking system version 7.1. Southwest Exotic Plant Information Clearinghouse, Flagstaff, AZ. Online. Available: (accessed 2004).

  • Colorado Natural Areas Program. 2000. Creating an Integrated Weed Management Plan: A Handbook for Owners and Managers of Lands with Natural Values. Colorado Natural Areas Program, Colorado State Parks, Colorado Department of Natural Resources; and Division of Plant Industry, Colorado Department of Agriculture. Denver, Colorado. 349 pages.

  • Hough, M.Y. 1983. New Jersey wild plants. Harmony Press, Harmony, NJ. 414 pp.

  • Howard, J.L. 2003. Descurainia sophia. In W.C. Fischer. Compiler. The Fire Effects Information System [Database]. Fire Effects Information System, Missoula, MT: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Intermountain Fire Sciences Laboratory. ONLINE. Available: Accessed 2004, January.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Meades, S.J. & Hay, S.G; Brouillet, L. 2000. Annotated Checklist of Vascular Plants of Newfoundland and Labrador. Memorial University Botanical Gardens, St John's NF. 237pp.

  • Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). 1999. List of Noxious Weeds in Minnesota. ONLINE. Accessed 2004, February.

  • Roland, A.E., and E.C. Smith. 1983. The flora of Nova Scotia: Volumes 1 and 2. Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax, NS, Canada. 746 pp.

  • The Nature Conservancy. 2001. Map: TNC Ecoregions of the United States. Modification of Bailey Ecoregions. Online . Accessed May 2003.

  • Voss, E.G. 1985. Michigan flora. Part II. Dicotyledons. Cranbrook Institute of Science and University of Michigan Herbarium. Ann Arbor, Michigan. 1212 pp.

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