April 09, 2006


Tod & I joined our neighbor Shinji on an outing to Satte, Saitama-ken, to view Japan’s “other” spring flower, nanohana. It’s called “rape” in English, which might contribute to why I never knew it in the US. When we eat it, we call it rapini.

I put a selection of our photos on Flickr if you want to see the carpet of brilliant yellow we experienced. I tried a watercolor sketch, but am not satified with it. I might use it for the basis of sone other drawing instead.

P.S. In case you wonder, it’s na-no-hana, vegetable flower, not nano-hana, teeny-tiny flower.

Posted by kuri at April 09, 2006 10:18 PM


Rape is actually grown commercially in the US. As far as I know, it’s mostly for rapeseed oil which is called ‘Canola’ oil here, presumably for marketing reasons. I don’t know if they use a different name for the plant here.

Nice photo!

Here in Colorado, the ume aren’t even in bloom yet, but soon. I was trimming trees in my yard yesterday and brought in a couple of plum and cherry branches to see if I can force flowers indoors.

Posted by: mike on April 9, 2006 11:14 PM

Brilliant is right, I envy you your outing. Many years ago on a trip to England with my mom, we took a train North from London through farmland whose fields were glowing bright, bright lemon yellow. “What crop was that?” we wondered between ourselves.

“That’s rape,” said a helpful lady across the aisle.

“What? what?” we both said, not having heard of it.

“R-R-R-R-R-R-ape,” she repeated. “From which is made rrrrapeseed oil.”

“Ohhhhhh.” We felt very provincial. We hadn’t heard of rapeseed oil, either.

Is it related to the mustard family? The color and shape of the flowers remind me a lot of wild mustard that grows in the Rockies.

Posted by: ginny on April 10, 2006 08:44 AM

I wondered about the mustard. A quick search shows that rape’s Latin name is Brassica rapa and it is also known as “wild mustard” or “field mustard.” Yellow mustard (which is what we eat, I think) seems to be another genus in the same family, Guillenia flavescens. So they are related, but not the same.

Posted by: Kristen on April 10, 2006 10:12 AM

I explored this once and came to the conclusion that Brassica rapa is mustard greens or rapini or Broccoli rabe. Brassica napus has three varieties, one grown for its leaves (collard/turnip greens), one grown for its roots (rutabaga/Swedes), and one grown for its seeds (rapeseed, canola).

But then I find pages like this: http://etext.virginia.edu/japanese/haiku/saijiki/1sp-7pl.html which turns my research on its head: it says that nanohana is Brassica rapa AND grown for canola oil.

More here: http://www.zanthan.com/japan/archives/001781.html

By the way, “canola” is a mash-up of Canada and oleum (oil/Latin) because this is a specific variety of rapeseed which was developed in Canada.

Posted by: M Sinclair Stevens on April 10, 2006 10:44 AM

I saw some of these growing beside the road near our house. It kinda looked like a weed but both Ash and I commented how vivid and pretty it was.

Posted by: T on April 10, 2006 02:12 PM
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