2827: Brassica

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Sequoia Brussels sprouts are delicious but it's pretty hard to finish one.
Title text: Sequoia Brussels sprouts are delicious but it's pretty hard to finish one.


Brassica oleracea is a plant species, that contains 23 different cultivars (plants which evolved primarily due to human selection) of wild cabbage, a relatively nondescript herb, to which many vegetables that we eat belong. These vegetables look quite different from each other, though all share the same basic appearance; compare, for example, cabbage, broccoli, kale and brussels sprouts.

In the comic, Cueball, who is serving as a natural-history tour guide or park ranger, or maybe is just leading a group of friends, declares that the "mighty redwood" (presumably the coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens) also belongs to this species. Since the coast redwood is a conifer, while B. oleracea is a flowering plant, the two species are about as different as two land plants can be, both in classification and appearance.

However, when viewed from high above, the canopy of forests can bear a striking resemblance to the top of a head of many of these cultivars. In this case, the pointier tops of conifers would more likely resemble a romanesco, while broad-leaved forests would be closer to the more commonly encountered calabrese. Such far-fetched resemblances could be used by a botanist as a joke to see if anyone is paying enough attention to call them out, which according to the caption, seems like something botanists do every year or two.

The title text refers to Sequoia Brussels sprouts. The reference is probably to the Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), a close relative of the coast redwood. "Resinous" is probably a more apt adjective than "delicious", and they're probably woody. Additionally, as stated, they would indeed be quite hard to finish - Sequoia trees can range from 50-85 meters in height, and so consuming them will take weeks or maybe months, a monotonous task despite their "deliciousness". It is probably no more advisable[citation needed] to stand under a sequoia bearing sprouts than it is to stand under a cannonball tree.


[Cueball, Megan and another Cueball are standing in front of a large tree. Only the lowest section of the tree trunk is visible.]
Cueball: Did you know the mighty redwood is actually the same species as broccoli and kale? It's just a different cultivar.
Other Cueball: Wow!
[Caption below the panel]
Every year or two, botanists add another plant to Brassica oleracea and see if anyone calls them on it.

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You can also get pretty good mileage from claiming random things (like peaches, corn, or Skittles) are actually a type of berry. 00:51, 12 September 2023 (UTC)

I've done that with corn before. 01:32, 12 September 2023 (UTC)
Easier (and often more accurate than expectations) to suggest that any number of 'berries' are not a berry (but, typically, a drupe or aggregate druplets/composite/etc), or similar with various (most?) type of 'nuts' that really aren't.
But of course loganberries and most types of pine nut are, indeed, brassicas![actual citation needed] 05:08, 12 September 2023 (UTC)
You can get even more milage by claiming that _technically_ random berry isn't a berry172.71.246.135 20:41, 12 September 2023 (UTC)
The confusion there comes from two different definitions of the word. The culinary term simply means a small edible fruit. The botanical definition is based on how different parts of the flower develop into parts of the fruit, and much of what matches each term doesn't match the other. The botanical term excludes a lot that even has "berry" in its name, like strawberries and blackberries, but includes some things that definitely don't match the culinary term, like bananas. Most people who aren't scientists who work with plants normally think of the culinary term, so basing statements on what matches the botanical term often sounds strange. The same is true for fruits vs vegetables, as vegatable doesn't even have a non-culinary definition, unlike fruit, which has a clear botanical meaning, which includes some things considered vegetables.-- 06:10, 13 September 2023 (UTC)

This is like the ridiculous claims that birds descended from dinosaurs and whales from hippos. Barmar (talk) 14:20, 12 September 2023 (UTC)

What do you mean "ridiculous"? https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-dinosaurs-shrank-and-became-birds/ 19:06, 12 September 2023 (UTC)
The poster was using the word "ridiculous" in the usual sense, but they omitted the "ironic" tag. Kelvin128 (talk) 14:30, 15 September 2023 (UTC)
Well, the <irony>...</irony> element and tags haven't actually been fully supported since HTML Internet Draft 1.2, and I don't think has ever had a MediaWiki markup equivalent. 15:34, 15 September 2023 (UTC)

Do we have a category/tag for "Experts misleading the public" or "Experts manufacturing false facts"? Feels like a common theme. 10:37, 13 September 2023 (UTC)

to which many vegetables that we eat belong speak for yourself. I'm pretty sure neither tomato nor potato is Brassica oleracea. -- Hkmaly (talk) 22:44, 13 September 2023 (UTC)

But what about the tomahto and potahto? 05:23, 14 September 2023 (UTC)

One of the issues with defining which plants are what is the definition of a tree. It's disputed a lot, one of those "I know one when I see one" type issues, but it's relevant here because the decision of what is a tree and what isn't is fluid and changes country to country (and even state to state https://www.rgc.net.au/post/what-is-a-tree) and depends on legal definitions rather than phylogenetic ones. https://eukaryotewritesblog.com/2021/05/02/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-tree/. Brassica, on the other hand, IS a genetic definition. I tried to point out the differences and similarities but someone edited it away again, so I figured I’d add it in here. If anyone would like to re-add, I see it as relevant that although we can randomly redefine various large plants as trees, we cannot randomly redefine various broccoli-like plants as brassica. Thisfox (talk) 07:28, 18 September 2023 (UTC)

Redwoods contain no resin. They do contain tanins, as does red wine. I am reluctant to edit the article but someone with that skill might want to change the line: " "Resinous" is probably a more apt adjective than "delicious", and they're probably woody...." to something like ""Delicious" might be an apt adjective as Sequoias, like red wine, have a high content of tannins, including polyphenols, but unlike wine this variety of brussels spounts would probably still be quite woody. Because of their height, the taste, like a Zinfandel, might have a long finish"

(reference to lack of resins in redwoods: "Redwoods, however, contain neither pitch nor resin...". and "The Redwoods have a high percentage of tannin, and this gives both the bark and the heartwood a reddish color during the life of the tree...." both from from https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/shirley/sec6.htm) WWCODY (talk) 21:13, 15 September 2023 (UTC)

Presumably that article is correct as to redwoods’ lack of resin, but it inspires *very* little confidence with “Fungi are colorless plants … .” Miamiclay (talk) 22:32, 16 September 2023 (UTC)

The statement is backed up by articles such as this: https://www.fs.usda.gov/psw/publications/documents/psw_gtr095/psw_gtr095_piirto.pdf. "There is little ether-soluble material (less than 1 percent) in coast redwood indicating the absence of fats, waxes, oils, and resinous substances. However, terpenoids (e.g., alpha pinene and various resin acids) have been reported (Anderson and others 1968a,b) within a sticky viscous resin found in open pockets of coast redwood. Similarly, a resinous, sticky material has been observed on the fire scars of giant sequoia (Piirto 1977). "WWCODY (talk) 21:43, 22 September 2023 (UTC)