Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Originally from western Asia and Europe, Sand Rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia), is a perennial, erect, glabrous (without hairs) yellow flowered herb 200–800 mm tall.
  • Yellow flowers with 4 petals 8–15 mm long, producing thin fruits (pods) 20-60 mm long and 1-2.5 mm wide, with a  2 mm beak at the apex (tip of the pod), on a stalk (pedicel) 10–50 mm long.
  • Considered one of the most frequent members of the Brassicaceae family that occur in the Victorian and South Australian cropping zones.
  • If consumed by livestock, Sand Rocket can taint meat and dairy produce.
  • Mostly spread be seed, rarely spread by root fragments.
  • Populations of Sand Rocket resistant to Group B/2 herbicides have been discovered in cereal crops in South Australia.
  • Sand Rocket is mainly considered to be a common roadside weed.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Sand Rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) is an perennial, erect, glabrous (without hairs) herb that grows 200 to 800 mm tall. It forms a long tap root that allows the plant to utilise water from deep underground. Stem and leaves are glaucous (blue-green in colour with a whitish bloom). Rosette leaves are only produced when the plant is a seedlings, being absent at all other times. The lower leaves are petiolate (with a leaf stalk), to 170  mm long, decreasing in size up the stem. The stem leaves are variable in shape and size, ranging from being pinnate (with opposite leaf segments)  deeply lobed to coarsely toothed or entire.  Leaves have a strong (some say unpleasant) mustard smell when fresh and broken/crushed.

The flowers on a flower stalk, consist of four, yellow to pale yellow petals and are 8–15 mm long. Petals of sand rocket are similar to other weeds in the mustard (Brassicaceae) family.

The fruits are spreading away from the stem to on a stalk (pedicel) 10–50 mm long, and on a secondary stalk beyond end of pedicel  0.5–4 mm. The fruits (pods) and narrow, 20-60 mm long and 1–2.5 mm wide, with a beak at the apex (tip of the pod) about 2 mm long and slender as fruit. As the fruits mature, slight constrictions occur between each of the seeds along the length of the fruits. Each fruit contains numerous seeds which are small, 1–1.5 mm long, are normally in two rows (side by side), and are yellow-brown in colour when ripe (Hewson 1982; Rich 1991; Entwisle 1996). Flowers most of year, with main flowering in the warm to hotter months.

Recognition: This species can normally be recognised by the combination of the following characters; perennial, erect, herb that grows 200 to 800 mm tall; stem and leaves without hairs and a strong smell of mustard when crushed; leaves lobed, blue-green in colour with a whitish bloom; Flowers yellow, petals 8–15 mm long; fruit (pods) on a stalk 0–50 mm long, and on a secondary stalk beyond end of pedicel  0.5–4 mm; pods 20–60 mm long and 1–2.5 mm wide, with a beak at the apex (tip of the pod) about 2 mm; seeds are small 1–1.5 mm long, normally sitting side by side in the pod.

For further information and assistance with identification of Sand Rocket, contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Sand Rocket grows on a wide range of soil types, from heavier textured clay soils through to coastal sand. It is, however, most often encountered on well drained sandy soils with high calcium content (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Dellow et al. 2006). It favours disturbed sites such as roadsides, waste places, stream banks and railway lines. It has been recorded as a weed of pasture, cereal crops and disturbed grass and scrubland. It does not compete with established or well managed pastures (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Are there similar species?

Sand Rocket is similar to Wall Rocket (Diplotaxis muralis) which is also a weed in Australia. It is an annual species with deep yellow petals that are significantly smaller than those of Sand Rocket (up to 8 mm long, compared to 15 mm long in Sand Rocket). Sand Rocket has seeds in two rows per each cavity (loculus) of the fruit. This characteristic combined with the presence of a stipe (a stalk between the bottom of the valves and the end of the pedicel) at the base of the fruit should serve to distinguish the species from all other yellow flowered members of the Brassicaceae family (Rich 1991).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Weed of crops causing yield reductions due to competition.

Agriculture: Sand Rocket is not a problem species in established, well managed pastures. However, it will invade poor quality pastures. It competes with hay and causes difficulty in harvesting and cereal grain may become tainted by Sand Rocket at harvest time. If consumed by stock, Sand Rocket can taint meat and dairy produce, and may be poisonous (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).  it is reported to be poisonous to stock and has on occasion been suspected of causing death of both stock and humans.  It is one of the most frequent members of the Brassicaceae family that occurs in the Victorian and South Australian cropping zones, where it is mainly considered a weed of roadsides (Dellow et al. 2006). Another problem is Sand Rockets low level of susceptibility to herbicide if sprayed when not actively growing, often resulting in the need for re-treatment to obtain any level of effective control.

Native ecosystems: Normally only found on edges of good quality native vegetation and not within, only invades poor quality open disturbed grasslands, open grassy woodlands, or similarly disturbed open environments.

Urban areas: Weed of roadsides, railways, railway yards, cultivation and disturbed areas.

How does it spread?

Seed is the most significant method of reproduction in Sand Rocket. Seeds spread in the same manner as other similar weedy cruciferous species such as Wild Radish (Raphanus raphanistrum). The seed of these species spreads by water, especially where plants grow in riparian habitats and on steep terrain where erosion and runoff occurs. Contaminated soil, fodder, vehicles and cultivation equipment are also vectors for seed transport. Seeds may also be readily dispersed along roadsides and railway lines during maintenance works. Dispersal via contaminated agricultural produce is also a potential means of spread. The species can also spread as root pieces on cultivation equipment, but in Australia, this is not as significant as the spread by seed (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

What is its history in Australia?

Sand Rocket was first recorded in Australia in 1878, where it was noted to be introduced but not widely established in Tasmania (Spicer 1878). It was later collected in 1901, from Bunbury, Western Australia, and soon after from Altona, Victoria in 1904, and Port Lincoln, South Australia in 1907. It was first recorded in Queensland in 1962 and New South Wales in 1965. Sand Rocket may have been introduced into Australia between 1880 and 1900, as a contaminant of dumped ships ballast, as some early records were from known ballast dumps in Victoria and South Australia (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). In South Australia, Sand Rocket was sown as a pasture species in the Eyre Peninsula until the 1960s, and it was grown in the north-east pastoral country in an unsuccessful bid to consolidate sandy soils (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Sand Rocket can spread by both seed and root fragments. Ensuring thorough cleaning of cultivation, harvesting and road maintenance equipment that has been working in infested areas will help prevent its spread. Hay and crop seeds may also contain seed of Sand Rocket if they have been sourced from infested paddocks. Sites where feed is laid out should be monitored for the emergence of new weeds. New weeds should be removed before they become established (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Chemical control: Herbicides can be used successfully in controlling Sand Rocket. However the biology of the species coupled with the complexities of modern cropping and weed management require careful and well researched decisions to be made to maximise effectiveness and to limit off target impacts (Mathison 2000). Populations of Sand Rocket resistant to Group B/2 herbicides have been discovered in cereal crops in South Australia (Preston 2005). Blade ploughing, or spraying with relatively inexpensive herbicides used for general broadleaf weed control can kill or dramatically reduce established Lincoln weed in arable areas. Lincoln weed is difficult to control in established lucerne as selective herbicide treatments are not available.

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au

Non-chemical control: Individual plants can be successfully hand pulled or hoed, but care should be taken to ensure the majority of the tap root is removed, as re-sprouting can occur. Deep ploughing is an effective means of control especially if followed up by further cultivation to return seedlings and regrowth to the soil (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Seed of Sand Rocket germinates during autumn, with seedlings growing into rosettes throughout winter. Flowering stems are produced during spring, these continue to grow and flower throughout most of summer and early autumn. The above ground parts die off in late autumn, but by this time a perennial taproot has formed. New growth is produced annually from the crown of the taproot during early winter and at other times of the year when moisture is sufficient. Some plants have been known to flower throughout the year (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

In Australia, Sand Rocket is naturalised in Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. It is most abundant in Victoria and South Australia, where it occurs mainly on roadsides, railway easements and occasionally in pastures (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). In New South Wales, Sand Rocket is becoming well established in the Broken Hill, Menindee and Wentworth areas and in scattered locations elsewhere in the state. In Western Australia, it is occasionally found in waste places south of Perth (Hussey et al. 2007). In Tasmania, Sand Rocket has only been recorded on a few occasions and is not considered a weed problem (Baker 2007, pers. comm.).

Where does it originate?

Sand Rocket is native to western Asia and Europe (GRIN 2007).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Diplotaxis tenuifolia

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Brassica tenuifolia (L.) Fr.
  • Sisymbrium tenuifolium L.

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Lincoln Weed, Sand Mustard

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