nasturtium năstûrˈshəm [key], any plant of the genus Tropaeolum, tropical American herbs (usually climbing) native to mountainous areas of South and Central America. Several species are cultivated in the United States as ornamentals for their yellow or red flowers, e.g., the common nasturtiums (T. majus and T. minus) and the canary-bird flower (T. peregrinum). These species have been hybridized. The plants are sometimes used for food, i.e., the tuberous rooted T. tuberosum or añu of the high Andes, the seeds (pickled as capers), and the tart flowers and leaves (used in salads). Properly, Nasturtium is the botanical name for the water cresses, an unrelated genus of the family Cruciferae (or Brassicaceae; mustard family). Nasturtiums are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Geraniales, family Tropaeolaceae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Plants