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Hairy Rock-cress

Arabis hirsuta

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Brassicaceae (Cabbage)
Also in this family:
Alpine Pennycress, Alpine Rock-cress, American Wintercress, Annual Wall Rocket, Austrian Yellowcress, Awlwort, Bastard Cabbage, Black Mustard, Bristol Rock-cress, Charlock, Common Scurvygrass, Common Whitlowgrass, Coralroot, Creeping Yellowcress, Cuckooflower, Dame's-violet, Danish Scurvygrass, Dittander, Early Wintercress, Eastern Rocket, English Scurvygrass, Evergreen Candytuft, False London Rocket, Field Pennycress, Field Pepperwort, Flixweed, Garden Arabis, Garden Candytuft, Garden Cress, Garden Radish, Garden Rocket, Garlic Mustard, Glabrous Whitlowgrass, Gold of Pleasure, Great Yellowcress, Greater Cuckooflower, Greater Periwinkle, Greater Swinecress, Hairy Bittercress, Hairy Rocket, Hairy Whitlowgrass, Hedge Mustard, Hoary Cress, Hoary Mustard, Hoary Stock, Hoary Whitlowgrass, Honesty, Horseradish, Hutchinsia, Hybrid Watercress, Intermediate Periwinkle, Isle of Man Cabbage, Large Bittercress, Lesser Swinecress, London Rocket, Lundy Cabbage, Marsh Yellowcress, Mountain Scurvygrass, Narrow-fruited Watercress, Narrow-leaved Bittercress, Narrow-leaved Pepperwort, Northern Rock-cress, Northern Yellowcress, Oilseed Rape, Perennial Rocket, Perennial Wall Rocket, Perfoliate Pennycress, Pinnate Coralroot, Purple Rock-cress, Pyrenean Scurvygrass, Rock Whitlowgrass, Russian Rocket, Scottish Scurvygrass, Sea Kale, Sea Radish, Sea Rocket, Sea Stock, Shepherd's Cress, Shepherd's Purse, Small-flowered Wintercress, Smith's Pepperwort, Steppe Cabbage, Swede, Sweet Alyssum, Tall Rocket, Thale Cress, Tower Mustard, Treacle Mustard, Trefoil Cress, Turnip, Wall Whitlowgrass, Wallflower, Wallflower Cabbage, Warty Cabbage, Watercress, Wavy Bittercress, White Mustard, Wild Cabbage, Wild Candytuft, Wild Radish, Wild Turnip, Wintercress, Woad, Yellow Whitlowgrass
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
80 centimetres tall
Grassland, meadows, mountains, roadsides, rocky places, sand dunes, walls.

White, 4 petals
The flowers of Hairy Rockcress, as observed in the United Kingdom, are delicate and captivating. Each blossom features intricate patterns of pale lavender petals with subtle hints of mauve, creating a harmonious blend of colors that gracefully unfurls. The petals exude a gentle fragrance, enticing pollinators to partake in their nectar-rich offerings. The blooms are adorned with a fine layer of tiny hairs, which lends a soft and ethereal quality to the flowers, almost as if they are delicately frosted with nature's artistry. These flowers epitomize the quiet beauty of the British countryside, silently enchanting all who have the privilege to witness their elegance.
The fruit of Hairy Rockcress, commonly seen in the United Kingdom, is a slender and elongated silique that matures into a pale green or brownish pod. These pods, characterized by their elongated shape and hairy exterior, contain small, round seeds. As they reach maturity, the siliques split open along their length, releasing the seeds within. The seeds are typically small and round, adding to the plant's distinctive charm. This unassuming fruiting structure is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of Hairy Rockcress in the UK's varied habitats, and it plays a crucial role in the plant's life cycle, ensuring its continued presence in the British countryside.
The leaves of Hairy Rockcress, commonly found in the United Kingdom, are lance-shaped and deeply lobed, possessing a distinct and slightly toothed margin. These verdant leaves have a gentle sheen and a dark green hue, giving them a lush and healthy appearance. The upper surface of the leaves is smooth, while the lower surface bears a fine layer of soft hairs, adding to their texture and resilience. These leaves form a basal rosette, hugging the ground closely and contrasting beautifully with the delicate, intricate flowers they surround. Their adaptability and distinctive shape make them a notable feature of Hairy Rockcress in the UK's diverse natural landscapes.
The Hairy Rockcress, commonly encountered in the United Kingdom, possesses a subtle and delicate fragrance. When one approaches these blossoms, a gentle scent of earthy freshness with hints of sweetness graces the senses. It is not overpowering but rather a soft and natural aroma, reminiscent of the surrounding countryside. The fragrance of Hairy Rockcress harmonizes seamlessly with the tranquillity of its natural habitat, adding a subtle olfactory dimension to its quiet beauty, making it a delightful presence in the British landscape.
Other Names:
Creamflower Rockcress, Hairy Wallcress, Mountain Rockcress.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Arabis hirsuta, also known as hairy rockcress or hairy wallcress, is a species of flowering plant in the family Brassicaceae. It is native to Europe, Asia and North America, and typically grows in rocky or gravelly habitats, such as rocky outcroppings, talus slopes, and alpine meadows. The plant is a small perennial herb that typically grows to be around 10-20 cm tall, with simple, linear leaves and small white or pink flowers that bloom in spring. The leaves and stems are covered with stiff, glandular hairs which gives the plant a rough texture. It is drought-tolerant, can grow in poor soils and is able to colonize harsh environments with low nutrient availability and high levels of exposure. It's considered a model organism for studying the adaptation of plants to environmental stress and for understanding the molecular mechanisms of plant adaptation to environmental changes. It is hardy in USDA zones 3-8


Hairy rock-cress, or Arabis hirsuta, is a small but hardy plant that is native to Europe and western Asia. It belongs to the Brassicaceae family, which includes other common plants such as broccoli, cabbage, and mustard. Despite its small size and unassuming appearance, the hairy rock-cress has a number of interesting characteristics that make it an important plant in its native habitat.

One of the most notable features of the hairy rock-cress is its ability to thrive in harsh environments. It is often found growing on rocky outcrops, gravelly slopes, and other areas with poor soil quality. This is due in part to its shallow root system, which allows it to quickly absorb water and nutrients from the soil. In addition, the plant has a high tolerance for drought, which allows it to survive in areas where other plants might wither and die.

Another interesting feature of the hairy rock-cress is its ability to adapt to changes in its environment. When conditions become unfavorable, the plant is able to enter a state of dormancy, where it remains alive but stops growing and reproducing. This allows it to survive through periods of drought, cold temperatures, or other challenges, and then resume growth and reproduction when conditions improve.

Despite its toughness and adaptability, the hairy rock-cress is a relatively short-lived plant. It typically only lives for two to three years, and during that time it produces small white flowers in the spring and early summer. These flowers are not particularly showy, but they do provide an important source of nectar for pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

One interesting aspect of the hairy rock-cress is its use in traditional medicine. In some cultures, the plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory problems, digestive issues, and skin conditions. While there is limited scientific evidence to support these claims, the plant does contain a number of compounds that have been shown to have potential medicinal properties.

In recent years, the hairy rock-cress has also become a popular plant for use in ornamental gardening. Its small size and hardy nature make it a good choice for rock gardens, and its early spring flowers can add a touch of color to an otherwise barren landscape.

The hairy rock-cress is a fascinating plant that is well-suited to its native habitat. While it may not be the most showy or glamorous plant, it has a number of important adaptations that allow it to thrive in even the harshest environments. Whether you encounter it in the wild or in a carefully tended garden, the hairy rock-cress is a reminder of the resilience and adaptability of the natural world.

One important aspect of the hairy rock-cress is its role in the ecosystem. As a native plant, it provides food and habitat for a variety of animals, including insects, birds, and small mammals. In particular, the plant's small white flowers are a source of nectar for bees and butterflies, which in turn help to pollinate other plants in the area. This makes the hairy rock-cress an important part of the food chain and a contributor to the overall health of the ecosystem.

However, despite its many adaptations, the hairy rock-cress is also vulnerable to threats such as habitat loss and invasive species. As natural habitats are destroyed or degraded, the plant's ability to survive and reproduce is compromised. In addition, non-native plants can outcompete the hairy rock-cress for resources, further reducing its ability to survive in its native habitat.

To help protect the hairy rock-cress and other native plants, conservation efforts are underway in many parts of the world. These efforts include habitat restoration and management, as well as the removal of invasive species. In addition, researchers are studying the plant's unique adaptations in order to better understand how it is able to thrive in challenging environments. This knowledge may help inform the development of new crop varieties that are better able to withstand drought and other environmental stresses.

In addition to its ecological and medicinal value, the hairy rock-cress has cultural significance in some regions. For example, it has been used in traditional European folk medicine for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. In addition, the plant has been incorporated into some religious traditions and is used in spiritual practices by some Indigenous groups.

The hairy rock-cress also has a long history of use in cuisine. In some regions of Europe and the Middle East, the plant's leaves are eaten raw or cooked, and its seeds are used as a condiment. In particular, the seeds are often used as a substitute for mustard seeds and have a similar flavor and aroma. However, it is important to note that not all parts of the plant are safe for consumption, and it is best to consult with a knowledgeable expert before consuming any wild plants.

Finally, the hairy rock-cress has also been used in scientific research. As a model plant, it has been studied extensively to better understand its unique adaptations to harsh environments. In addition, it has been used in genetic research to study the evolution of plant genomes and the genetic basis of important traits such as drought tolerance and disease resistance.

Overall, the hairy rock-cress is a small but remarkable plant that has played an important role in human culture and in the natural world. With its unique adaptations and resilience, it serves as a reminder of the amazing diversity of life on our planet, and of the many ways in which humans have interacted with and depended on the natural world throughout our history.


Video 1: Hairy Rockcress filmed at Nob End in Bolton on the 25th May 2023.


Video 2: Hairy Rockcress filmed on Hutton Roof, Cumbria on the 28th May 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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