Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. sativus (L.) Domin

First published in Beih. Bot. Centralbl. 26(2): 255 (1910)
This subspecies is accepted
The native range of this subspecies is a cultigen from Medit. It is an annual or biennial and grows primarily in the temperate biome. It is used to treat unspecified medicinal disorders.


Kew Species Profiles

General Description

Raphanus sativus is a cultigen (a plant that has been altered by humans through a process of selective breeding). Because it has been in cultivation for thousands of years, its exact origins are unknown. Radish is grown all over the world for its fleshy, edible taproot. A wide variety of cultivars are available, producing taproots that range from 2 cm up to 1 m long, and from red to pink, white, purple or black in colour.

Radish is a cruciferous plant in Brassicaceae, a family that includes turnip (Brassica rapa), cabbage and relatives (Brassica oleracea) and horseradish (Armoracia rusticana).

The generic name Raphanus derives from the Greek ra, meaning quickly, and phainomai, meaning to appear, in reference to the rapid germination of radish seeds. The common name radish derives from the Latin for root, radix.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

It is thought that Raphanus sativus evolved in the eastern Mediterranean region and may have been selected from R. raphanistrum subspecies landra (sometimes known by the synonym R. landra ).

Radish was an important food crop in Egypt by 2,000 BC, spread to China by about 500 BC and reached Japan around 700 AD. Radish did not reach Britain until the mid-16th century.

Radish is now widely distributed, and cultivars are available to suit a wide range of environmental conditions.


Overview: An annual or biennial herb with succulent taproot.

Taproot: Widely variable in colour, shape and size. Red, pink, white, yellow, purple or black externally, white to bright pink internally. Spherical, olive-, spindle- or turnip-shaped, tapering from top or bottom, 2 cm to 1m long and 60 cm in diameter.

Leaves: Lobed, with a larger, rounded, terminal lobe and smaller, paired lower segments. Irregularly toothed.

Flowers: Four white to pink or pale violet petals. Four sepals. Flowers borne on erect, many-flowered inflorescences up to 90 cm tall.

Fruit: A smooth, beaked, fleshy siliqua (fruit divided into two parts by a thin partition and opening by two valves to reveal seeds on central limb).

Many cultivars are available, including:• 'Caudatus' - rat's tail• 'Longipinnatus' - daikon, mooli, mula, muli, Chinese root, Japanese root, rettich

Cultivars commonly grown in the UK include: 'Black Spanish Round', 'Cherry Belle', 'China Rose', 'French Breakfast', 'München Bier', and many others.


Radish is cultivated as an annual for its enlarged, succulent taproot, which has been used for food since prehistoric times. The taproot is eaten raw in salads, relishes and appetizers, and slices are included in stir-fries. Black radishes are favoured in many Eastern European cuisines.

Young radish leaves are edible and are cooked in the same manner as spinach. Sprouted radish seedlings (jaba) are also consumed. Young radish fruits have a spicy flavour and are sometimes pickled. Radish was grown for its seed oil in Ancient Egypt.

Oriental radish ( Raphanus sativus 'Longipinnatus'), known as daikon or mooli, can produce a long-lasting taproot over 45 cm long and weighing up to 50 kg. This mild-flavoured taproot is widely used in oriental cuisines, for example in soups, sauces and meat dishes. In Japan it is grated to produce a garnish for sashimi. Pickled daikon is popular in Japan and Korea. Daikon is used to make 'turnip cake', which is eaten at Chinese New Year. Daikon is fed to stock in the East.

Raphanus sativus 'Caudatus', known as rat's tail, is cultivated in Asia for its fruits which grow up to 30 cm long. The young fruits are consumed raw, cooked or pickled.

Some radish cultivars are grown for their leaves, which are used as fodder.

Night of the radishes

On 23 December in Oaxaca (Mexico) thousands of people gather to celebrate Noche de rábanos (Night of the radishes).

The focus of this festival, celebrated since 1897, is the creation of intricate sculptures carved from giant radishes, many depicting nativity scenes or saints.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Three collections of Raphanus sativus seeds are held in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

This species at Kew

Raphanus sativus can usually be seen growing in the Plant Family Beds at Kew.

Pressed and dried specimens of Raphanus sativus are held in Kew's Herbarium where they are available to researchers by appointment. Details of specimens of Raphanus species can be seen online in Kew's Herbarium Catalogue.

Specimens of radish roots, seeds, seed oil and fruits are held in Kew's Economic Botany Collection in the Sir Joseph Banks Building, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

Widespread in cultivation.

None known.


Found in Boyacá, Colombia.

The Useful Plants of Boyacá project

Alt. 1800 - 2900 m.
Cultivated in Colombia.
Morphology General Habit

Cruciferae, A. W. Exell. Flora Zambesiaca 1:1. 1960

Morphology General Habit
Annual or biennial herb with a tuberous white, pink or red tap-root and erect, bristly stem up to 100 cm. tall.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers white or purplish.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit inflated, up to 15 mm. in diam., not or little constricted between the seeds and not breaking transversely into joints, beak long and conical.

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 1800 - 2900 m.; Andes.
Morphology General Habit

Cruciferae, Bengt Jonsell (University of Stockholm). Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1982

Like R. raphanistrum but usually biennial with thickened napiform to cylindrical taproot and with thicker siliquae (7–15 mm. in diameter) of ± spongy to corky consistency, not lomentaceous and not or only slightly constricted between the 1–12 seeds.
Cultivated places; 15–2650 m.
K3 T6 cosmopolitan as an escaped alien



Use Medicines Unspecified Medicinal Disorders
Medicinal (State of the World's Plants 2016).

Common Names



  • Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

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  • Flora Zambesiaca

    • Flora Zambesiaca
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  • Flora of Tropical East Africa

    • Flora of Tropical East Africa
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  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

    • Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2023. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2022 World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Living Collection Database

    • Common Names from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Living Collection https://www.kew.org/
  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2023. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2022 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Science Photographs

    • Copyright applied to individual images
  • Kew Species Profiles

    • Kew Species Profiles
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  • Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Useful Plants of Boyacá Project

    • ColPlantA database
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/