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Arabidopsis thaliana, thale cress or mouse-ear cress, is small herbaceous annual flowering plants in the Brassicaceae (mustard family, which also includes cabbage and broccoli). As noted in the Flora of North America (2012) “Arabidopsis thaliana is the most widely used model organism in plant biology. Its small genome size, fully sequenced in the year 2000, chromosome number, fast growth cycle (from seed germination to set in four to six weeks), small size (hundreds can be grown in a pot and thousands in a growth chamber), autogamous breeding system (induced mutations are expressed in two generations), and ability to grow on various synthetic media, all make the species an ideal system in experimental biology.”

A. thaliana is a small plant, 2 to 25 cm (1 to 9.5 in) in height, with a basal rosette of leaves that are 0.8 to 3.5 cm (0.3 to 1.3 in) long and up to 1 cm (0.4 in) wide; cauline leaves (on the flowering stem) are smaller. The small white flowers, which are less than 0.5 cm in diameter, have 4 petals and develops into a siliqua (a seed capsule or pod) that contains 20-30 small plump tan brown seeds, each 0.5 mm or less in diameter.

A. thaliana originated in Europe and central, southwest Asia, and northern Africa, but has been introduced and naturalized throughout the U.S. and Canada, and has been introduced in nearly worldwide. Like many species in the Brassicaceae, A. thaliana are edible by humans, and can be used similarly to other mustard greens, in salads or sautéed, but its use as an edible spring green is not widely noted. It is generally considered a weed, due to its widespread distribution in agricultural fields, roadside, and disturbed lands.

The large amount of research and genome information on A. thaliana is compiled in online sources including The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR) (http://www.arabidopsis.org/), Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center, (ABRC) based at Ohio State University (http://abrc.osu.edu/), and Nottingham [European] Arabidopsis Stock Centre (http://arabidopsis.info/)).

(FNA 2012, NSF 2012, Wikipedia 2012.)

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