The meaning of cruciferous



To modern ears, “cruciferous” is all about vegetables. But the word’s rich history shows that it was formerly used in a much broader sense.

By Eric Rumsey, Janna Lawrence and Xiaomei Gu

In a Google search for the word “cruciferous,“ 9 out of the top 10 retrievals contain the phrase “cruciferous vegetables.” This certainly does fit the predominant modern usage of the word. As a game show host might say, “what do you think of when I say ‘cruciferous’?” Well, of course, “vegetables”! But it hasn’t always been this way. As the Google Ngram chart below shows, the phrase “cruciferous vegetables” only came into prominent use about 1980. Before that, the word “cruciferous” was widely used in other contexts.


To understand the real meaning of the word, it’s important to understand what these other contexts are. This is important for more than simply historic reasons; it’s also important to understand the meaning of the word to understand its connections to nutrition, and because it helps to search for the subject in databases such as PubMed. Additionally, it’s a surprisingly interesting story.

The key to understanding “cruciferous” is a knowledge of its rich botanical history. The chart below gives a hint of this. The chart is a comparison of the use of the words Cruciferae and Brassicaceae. These are names that have been assigned to the plant family that contains “cruciferous vegetables” and many other plants as well. As the chart indicates, Cruciferae was the name of the family until the early 20th century, when it was officially changed to Brassicaceae. Since then, botanists have gradually been switching the word they use, with continuing widespread use of the older name Cruciferae.


This seemingly arcane naming distinction is important because when the family name was Cruciferae, the word cruciferous was used to include all plants in the family, not just the edible species that we call “cruciferous vegetables,” which helps explain the common use of the word in the chart above. (Examples from Google Books of the broad botanical use of the word “cruciferous” in the 19th century are here, here, and here.) The significance of this is magnified by the fact that the family is very large, containing 372 genera and 4060 species, making it one of the largest flowering plant families. This and other details of the family are well-covered by a Wikipedia article on it. Another detail that gives an idea of the size and variety of the family and helps explain the widespread use of “cruciferous” is that, in addition to cruciferous vegetables, it also includes decorative flowers, weeds, and Arabidopsis thaliana (“a very important model organism in the study of the flowering plants”).

Relating to the image of three flowers at the top of the article, another help in understanding “cruciferous” is the etymology of the word itself. The word comes from the word “cross,” because the 4-petaled flowers have the appearance of a cross. The flowers in the image above are (from left) Raphanus sativus (Wild radish weed), Brassica oleracea (Broccoli) and Arabidopsis thaliana. (Images are from Wikipedia).

In conclusion, the word “cruciferous” is confusing because the word has its origins in a time when the large family Brassicaceae was called Cruciferae, which meant that all of the plants in the family (most of which are not edible) were referred to as “cruciferous.” In the last generation, as botanists have switched to calling the family Brassicaceae instead of Crucuferae, and as people have become more aware of nutrition, the word “cruciferous” has gradually come to be used most commonly in the context of “cruciferous vegetables.” As we’ll discuss in a companion article, it’s important to know about this history and the taxonomic relationships of cruciferous vegetables in order to do successful searches in research databases like PubMed.

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VPN Service Changing November 30 | no longer available

On Wednesday, November 30, 2016 from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. the university VPN service will be changed. If you use the VPN website ( as your VPN connection method, you need to download, install, and use the Cisco AnyConnect client instead because this site is being discontinued as a VPN connection method.

The website will be discontinued because:

1. The overall practice of a web VPNs is no longer an industry best practice.

2. Support for the web VPN functionality from the vendor is very limited as a result, and not being actively updated.

3. The web VPN service has been responsible for confusion as to which option to use to access campus resources.

Visit this site to find more information on how to download, install, and connect to the Cisco AnyConnect VPN client.

If you have any questions, please contact the ITS Help Desk:

ITS Help Desk

The University of Iowa

2800 University Capitol Centre

319-384-HELP (4357)

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“At Your Local Library” Interviews with IWA

Image of Rachel Black holding a bookImage of Rachel Black holding a book

Image of Rachel Black holding a bookRachel Black is a graduate assistant in the Iowa Women’s Archives. As part of her graduate work in the School of Library and Information Science she has been working on a project called “@ Your Local Library.”

“@ Your Local Library” is a series of photo essays bringing to life stories of the important work going on behind the scenes in libraries around the area, and posting about them on a WordPress site as well as Tumblr and Facebook.

On the “About” page for her website, Black describes her goals:

“Unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t aware of everything their local library has to offer. They see the books and the computers, but not the new programs or initiatives librarians are working to provide in order to create a happy and healthy community. I started this website in order to share with everyone the different ways librarians are working to benefit their communities.”

As part of the project, Black posted a six part series featuring librarians and staff from the Iowa Women’s Archives. The posts are embedded as a series below. Be sure to check out her pages to read all of the compelling stories of work going on in libraries around The Corridor.


Greater Midwest Region National Network of Libraries of Medicine | First Six Months at UI Update


graphic of 10 states covered by GMRThe Greater Midwest Region (GMR) of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) has now been operating from the University of Iowa for six months! If you’re curious as to what we’ve been working on, we put together a short recap, just for you.

Our team was fully staffed as of October 17th! Liz Kiscaden joined as the GMR’s Associate Director, along with Director Linda Walton, in April 0f 2016. Darlene Kaskie followed, joining as an Outreach Specialist, then we hired on Jacqueline Leskovec as our Network Librarian. In July, Molly Olmstead was hired as the Finance and Communications Coordinator and Bobbi Newman as the Community Engagement and Outreach Specialist. Our most recent hire, Derek Johnson, joined the staff as the Health Professionals Outreach Specialist in mid-October. The new GMR staff is compiled from a diverse array of backgrounds, including health science, law, and public librarianship, public health consulting, nursing, and libraries administration.

Associate Director, Liz Kiscaden, visited many of the Network’s Resource Libraries during these first six months. She traveled, with Linda Walton, to the Chicago Area to visit several institutions, including the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University and Loyola. Liz has also traveled to visit Resource Libraries in Minnesota, Michigan, and Kentucky.

GMR staffIn early September, staff from the National Office of the NN/LM visited the GMR’s newly renovated office space in the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences. NLM Associate Director Diane Babski, Project Scientists Margaret McGhee and Renee Bougard, and Division of Extramural Programs representative Allen VanBiervliet traveled from Washington DC to meet with the newly assembled GMR staff. The GMR hosted a dessert reception for the National Office visitors and the University of Iowa Libraries staff.

Our staff have exhibited across the region, promoting funding opportunities and demonstrating National Library of Medicine resources to librarians. Exhibits have included the North Dakota Library Association, Minnesota Library Association, the Iowa Library Association, and the Health Sciences Librarians of Illinois conference. Our staff also exhibited at the Midwest Chapter of the Medical Library Association, sponsoring two activities on the program.

During these first six months, our office sponsored several educational webinars, including the first installment NN/LM Resource Picks Webinar series, titled “Don’t Wait, Communicate about Disaster Preparedness!” Additionally, we presented an outstanding webinar on data management and another on emergency planning for collections, collaborating with our own Nancy Kraft from the University of Iowa libraries. Educational offerings have reached nearly 200 members across the ten-state region.

The GMR has already funded 16 outreach projects across seven states, allocating over $75,000 of funding toward this outreach. One example of a funded project is awarded to the Oakland University Kresage Medical Library, for their project titled “Health Information Outreach to Homeless Patients at the HOPE Recuperative Care Center.” The Kresage Library Staff, led by principal investigator Misa Mi, will use funding to provide computer and health information access to homeless patients discharged from the HOPE Adult Shelter. By providing these individuals computer access they will be able to use NLM Resources, such as MedlinePlus or to seek valuable information and learn information searching skills.

Our office is currently planning for the second year of funding, which will offer more awards and educational opportunities. Upcoming awards will place an emphasis on providing health literacy outreach to medically underserved areas and populations. We’re looking forward to continuing to support the mission of the NN/LM and will share our activities with you!

To keep up with the GMR’s latest activity, follow our Facebook, Twitter, or join our listserv (

Update by Elizabeth Kiscaden and Molly Olmstead.

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New Exhibit Showcases Green Engineering!


Check Out Our New Exhibit!!


The University of Iowa is committed to sustainability and becoming a green campus. You can read about the various goals in 2020 Vision – The University of Iowa’s Sustainability TargetsAnd check out the progress report! Our latest exhibit showcases some of the many resources available in our library and also highlights a few of the LEED certified buildings on campus.

What is a LEED building and how is the UI doing towards the goal of sustainability?

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a program which recognizes 5 key areas of environmental – and human – health. Looking at sustainable building site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability.

Creating sustainable environments is a very complex task – beginning with key infrastructure elements. According to Woodrow W. Clark II and Grant Cooke, authors of The Green Industrial Revolution, besides those key elements listed above, it also includes transportation, telecommunications and the belief systems, behavior and values of the residents.


A rendering of the College of Engineering Seamans Center Annex.

The University of Iowa has set a minimum standard of Silver certification for all new buildings and renovation projects. Currently there are 12 LEED certified buildings on campus and 5 that are pending certification. Of the 12 certified buildings, 9 are certified Gold, and 2 are certified Platinum. Of the 5 that are pending certification, 2 are pending Gold, 1 is targeting Silver certification, 1 is pending, and the College of Engineering Seamans Center Annex is targeting Gold/Platinum. The UI Health Care Facilities has 1 facility certified Silver and 2 more pending Silver.  The UI Facilities Management has over 20 LEED professionals on staff!

The College of Engineering is aiming for Platinum certification for the Seamans Center annex. The annex will incorporate “lots of green space, with active water filtration ponds and re-use of gray water, and we’re looking at photovoltaics as well,” said College of Engineering Dean Alec Scranton in the College of Engineering article, “And Something More.”


The Information Technology Facility was completed in 2011 and was the first building on campus to earn the LEED Platinum certification. The annual energy savings are estimated to be 71%; 55% of the wood-based construction materials were Forest Stewardship Council certified. It also has carpool parking and encourages biking to work by providing bicycle storage and shower facilities.


The University of Iowa has been installing green roofs on the new and remodeled buildings. The first-ever green roof was installed on the Pappajohn Biodmedical Discovery Building (PBDB). green_roofA green roof absorbs and stores rainwater and hot rooftop surfaces transfer their heat to storm water. A green roof reduces runoff from the building, too.  The College of Engineering, Seamans Center, also has a small 600 square foot green roof.

Come and see the model of a green roof in our Green Engineering Exhibit!!

Building an Emerald City : A Guide to Creating Green Building Policies and Programs is the story of Seattle, Washington, and how it became the first city in the United States to officially adopt the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver standards for it major construction projects. Besides sharing personal accounts and experiences, it also serves as a guidebook – explaining the process from the ground up (so to speak…). It includes information about the differing requirements for LEED certification depending on geographic areas.

An added benefit of creating green roofs can be the preservation of endangered flora. According to Green Roof Retrofit : Building Urban Resilience edited by Sara Wilkinson and Tim Dixon, biodiversity conservation, along with climate change, is one of the over-arching environmental concerns. Encouraging green roofs in urban areas, where there are few areas available for green space, can help bridge the gap between ecology and commerce, and give urban-dwellers the chance to connect with nature.

Another option for an ecological roof is a “cool roof.” A cool roof has a huge impact on climate change and helps reduce carbon emissions. Basically, a cool roof has a roof coating, or outside layer, that is white or light in color. The light roof reflects the sun’s rays rather than absorbing them like a traditional roof does. The heat that is absorbed by a darker colored roof contributes to an increase in the use of air conditioning. A cool roof also can effect the buildings around it – the cooler the roof, the less hot air is carried in the wind.



University of Iowa Voxman Music Building, pending LEED Gold certification. Photo from website


University of Iowa Visual Arts building, pending LEED Gold certification. Photo courtesy of Eric P. Dean








Thank you to Voxman Music Building staff, Art Building West/Visual Arts Building staff, Eric P. Dean, and the College of Engineering for sharing their photos with us!


Wilkinson, Sara; Dixon, Tim, editors. 2016. Green roof retrofit: building urban resilience. Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom : John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Engineering Library TH2401 .G74 2016

Clark, Woodrow; Cooke Grant, authors. 2016.  The green industrial revolution : energy, engineering and economics. Kidlington, Oxford : Waltham, Maryland : Elsevier/Butterworth Heinemann. Engineering Library TJ808 .C537 2015

2020 Vision – The University of Iowa’s Sustainability Targets. 2016. Sustainability. University of Iowa.

2010-2015 Progress Report. 2016. University of Iowa Office of Sustainability.

Information Technology Facility. 2016. Sustainability. University of Iowa.

Leed Building at UI. 2016. Sustainability. University of Iowa.

University of Iowa – Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building. 2015. Greenroof Projects Database.

Athens, Lucia. Building an emerald city : a guide to creating green building policies and programs. 2010. Washington, D.C. : Island Press. Engineering Library HT243.U6 A84 2010

Better Buildings Are Our Legacy. 2016. U.S. Green Building Council.

Did you know the UI has a silver-level, bike-friendly rating?

Bike Friendly University : the UI holds a silver-level bike-friendly rating by the League of American Bicyclists. 2016. Sustainability : the University of Iowa.











photo from pervious pavement:


Photo from


China Geo-Explorer II – Trial ends 25 November 2016

China Geo-Explorer offers a web based spatial data service that allows easy access to a rich collection of unique, authoritative, and comprehensive information from government statistics, population and economic Census, and many other data sources in a spatially integrated system with many powerful functions for exploratory spatial data analysis.

Please send additional comments to Brett Cloyd.

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Increase your efficiency with PubMed | Workshop Wednesday, Nov. 16, 1-2pm


PubMed is the National Library of Medicine’s index to the medical literature and includes over 26 million bibliographic citations in life sciences. This one-hour session will show you how to improve your search results by using subject headings (MeSH) and advanced keyword searching techniques.

Wednesday, November 16th, 1:00 – 2:00pm (Information Commons East)

Register online or by calling 319-335-9151.

pubmed graphic


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