Heterodera cruciferae




Rev 11/21/2019

Cabbage Cyst Nematode Classification Hosts
Morphology and Anatomy Life Cycle
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Distribution Management
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          Heterodera cruciferae Franklin, 1945

            Cabbage Cyst Nematode

Synonyms: Heterodera (Heterodera) cruciferae Franklin, 1945 (Skarbilovich, 1959)

Etymology: named for an earlier name for the main family of plant hosts, the Brassicaceae (formerly Cruciferae).

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Morphology and Anatomy:

Female: Body swollen, plump, almost spherical, lemon shape with projecting neck containing the esophagus and part of the esophageal glands.

Median esophageal bulb large, sub-spherical with prominent valve.

Prominent excretory pore at base of neck, at level of center of median bulb valve.

Females are white throughout development, turning brown at death. A large gelatinous matrix (egg sac), often almost as large as the female body and containing many eggs, is exuded through the vulva (Jones, 1950) and is probably secreted by uterine cells (Mackintosh, 1960).

Cyst: Broad, almost spherical to lemon shape. Cyst wall tough and dark brown, bearing irregular punctations, a reticulate pattern of ridges and a subcrystalline layer, the latter lost in old cysts.

Cyst is ambifenestrate with very low semifenestral arches separated by a narrow vulval bridge. 

In mature cysts, the semifenestrae are unobstructed, but in newly formed cysts, the body wall may still be intact. 

A narrow underbridge, formed from lateral bands of supporting tissue, connects the proximal end of the vagina with the vulval cone wall; the underbridge may be lost from older cysts (absent in 25% of specimens examined by Mulvey, 1972).


Second-stage juvenile: Vermiform, folded three times within egg.

Head offset with 3-4 head annules.   

Stylet robust, cone about 40% of total length, basal knobs massive with anterior face flat to concave.

Esophageal gland extending posteriorly to about 33% of body length. 

Tail tapering uniformly to a finely rounded terminus, with terminal hyaline zone about 50% tail length and equal to stylet length. Hyaline portion of tail often seen to contain refractive inclusions. 

Phasmid 33% of tail length behind anus.


Males: Vermiform, with rounded tail less than 1/5 body width long. Body adopting a curved position after heat relaxation, the posterior part often twisted 90 or 180 degrees.

Cuticle annulated, 4 incisures in lateral field, outer bands areolated.

Male lip region slightly offset, with 5-6 lip annules. 

Heavily sclerotized, head skeleton. 

Well developed stylet, cone 40% of total length; large knobs swept backwards.

Median esophageal bulb a slender ellipse with prominent valve.

Esophageal gland extending posteriorly beyond excretory pore to about 15% of body length.  Subventral section longer.


Reported median body size for this species (Length mm; width micrometers; weight micrograms) - Click:



Male with single testis, not reflexed.  

Spicules tips bidentate with two pores below spicule tip. 

Gubernaculum a simple rod.

Phasmids one body-width anterior to cloaca.

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California, South Australia; widely distributed in Europe.

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Economic Importance:

C-rated pest in California Nematode Pest Rating System.

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Feeding site establishment and development typical of genus.

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All species and varieties of Brassica and other Brassicaceae.  Sugarbeet (Beta vulgaris) is a non-host or very poor host.


For an extensive host range list for this species, click


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Life Cycle:

Ecophysiological Parameters:

For Ecophysiological Parameters for this species, click If species level data are not available, click for genus level parameters

Development and basic biology are similar to those of other cyst-nematodes.

On cabbage grown in South Wales, two complete generations occur between April and early September, but second-stage juveniles invading in September developed only as far as immature females by December (Lewis, 1971). Second-stage juveniles did not invade roots at temperatures below 4 C, but nematodes in the roots continued to develop slowly throughout the winter.

H. cruciferae is unusual among temperate cyst-nematode species in parasitizing winter-grown crops, and the number of generations produced on a crop depends on the growing period and sowing date, with a maximum of three generations on late cultivars of Brussels sprouts grown in northwest Europe.

H. cruciferae is amphimictic; there is no information about environmental effects on sex ratio. The bivalent chromosome number is 9 as in other amphimictic cyst-nematodes (Sheperd, 1965).

Mean number of eggs per cyst is 118. The gelatinous matrix, lost from many old cysts, contains from one to about 200 eggs and, in some instances, trapped males (Franklin, 1945).

Hatching of H. cruciferae eggs can be stimulated by exposure to root diffusates from Brassica spp., but not by the diffusates of other cruciferous hosts (Winslow, 1953; Shepherd, 1965).

Males do not feed.

[Ref: CIH Descriptions of Plant-parasitic Nematodes, Set 6, No. 90 (1972)]

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Heterodera cruciferae is not a major pest, but it can cause significant damage to brussels sprouts in California (Lear, 1971).

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Crop rotation is useful, since this nematode species has a limited host range.

For plants reported to have some level of resistance to this species, click

Use of nematicides (1,3-Dichloropropene (1,3-D) at 30 gal/acre) is effective for controlling damage to brussels sprouts in California (Lear, 1971); Stirling & Wicks (1975) used similar amounts in Australia to increase yields of cabbage.

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[Ref: CIH Descriptions of Plant-parasitic Nematodes, Set 6, No. 90 (1972)]

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Copyright © 1999 by Howard Ferris.
Revised: November 21, 2019.