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UK Nature  > Wild Flowers  > White Wild Flowers  > Arabidopsis thaliana

Scientific Name:   Arabidopsis thaliana
Common Name:   Thale Cress

Arabidopsis thaliana, more commonly known as Thale Cress, Wall Cress or Mouse-ear Cress, is an annual but it usually germinates in the autumn and overwinters as a leaf rosette. In April or May at the latest the rosette grows a flowering stem with flowers at the top, and the first fruits soon form.

Thale cress’s white flowers are only a couple of millimetres in diameter, which is too small to attract insects, but seed-production is ensured by self-pollination. If drought does not seal the plant’s fate early it can go on to grow and branch until early summer as it ripens its seeds.

Thale cress is like the floral equivalent of the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster): both are cultivated in laboratories around the world and used in genetic research. It is easy to care for, fast-growing, small and very fertile so it is a wonderful model organism to explain many of the basic phenomena of the plant kingdom. It has a simple genome with only five pairs of chromosomes (e.g. a human has twenty-three pairs).

This insignificant weed can be used to study useful phenomena in agriculture and economics more broadly. The basic genetic mechanisms of growth, flowering and seed production are the same throughout the plant kingdom, so research into thale cress can be applied to other useful plants.
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