Nashville’s Mustard

There are swaths of yellow right now in Elmington Park: small yellow blooms massed in the lawn. I hope the city doesn’t mow soon, because the yellow is Nashville mustard—our mustard—and it needs to go to seed and spread. I saw it on the way to Hebrew School, and as soon as I could, I went back and parked the car in the lot, then parked my body flat on the grass.

How often do you get to see a mass of something pretty that is not an exotic invasive? Nashville mustard is as native as it gets: it is an endemic.

Endemic = “native or restricted to a certain country or area,” which in this case is the Central Basin of Tennessee. It likes wet fields, so maybe it is a good thing that the lawn of Elmington, despite civic attempts to grade and drain and landscape and whatnot, remains a swamp at certain times of year.

It’s a sweet little flower, and en masse, I can just detect a smidge of fragrance. I love the hairy pods—the bladders. These are called silicles, which I’ve learned are not siliques, like with the longer pods of Leavenworthia glade cress. A silicle’s length is less than three times the width. A silique’s length is more. (Can I remember this?)

Nashville mustard is a.k.a. Lescur’s bladderpod and Paysonia lescurii. In the mustard family (Brassicaceae).

nashville mustard steeple
Nashville mustard

Last year, I saw Nashville mustard patches in the Ft. Negley lawn, and I assume it is still there (even though most of their trees are gone). Wildflowers of Tennessee and Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians says, “Prominent locations for this plant are along I-24 at Haywood Lane in south Nashville and at Old Hickory Blvd. north of Nashville where it can be seen flowering from late March to early April.”

Where else are good displays of Nashville mustard?

4 thoughts on “Nashville’s Mustard

  1. Harpeth River Greenway in Bellevue. Park at the trailhead off of McPherson Ave. (past the ball park) and go about 1.5 miles down the path headed west (take all the right forks, walk along the boardwalk next to the river, and ta dah).

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