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Hoary Cress

Lepidium draba

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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 Rock-cress, Hairy Rocket, Hairy Whitlowgrass, Hedge Mustard, 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:
90 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, meadows, parks, roadsides, saltmarshes, sand dunes, seaside, wasteland.

White, 4 petals
Loose clusters of small white flowers. Each flower is up to 6mm across. The petals are roughly double the length of the sepals.
Flattened, kidney-shaped, net-veined pod with a projecting style.
An unkempt, erect, hairless perennial. Long, narrow, greyish-green leaves. Can be toothed or untoothed, most are toothed. The topmost leaves clasp the stems. The leaves are alternate and simple.
Other Names:
Chalk Weed, Heart-podded Hoary Cress, Hoary Cardaria, Hoary Pepperwort, Peppergrass, Perennial Peppergrass, Thanet Cress, White Weed, Whitetop, Whitetop.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Lepidium draba, also known as hoary cress or whitetop, is a species of flowering plant in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). It is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, and is naturalized in many other parts of the world. The plant is an invasive weed that is known for its rapid growth and ability to outcompete native plants. It has small, white flowers and hairy, gray-green leaves. Lepidium draba is a biennial plant, meaning it takes two years to complete its life cycle. In its first year, it forms a low-growing rosette of leaves close to the ground. In its second year, it produces a tall, upright stem with clusters of white flowers at the top. The flowers give way to small, round seeds that are dispersed by wind and water. Lepidium draba is toxic to livestock and can cause digestive problems if ingested.


Hoary Cress: A Common Weed with Surprising Benefits

Hoary cress, also known as Lepidium draba, is a common weed found in many parts of the world. It is considered a weed due to its ability to quickly spread and grow in areas where it is not wanted. However, this plant has a number of interesting characteristics and benefits that are worth exploring.

One of the most notable features of hoary cress is its ability to thrive in harsh and inhospitable environments. This plant can grow in soil that is poor in nutrients and contaminated with heavy metals, making it an ideal choice for areas that are difficult to cultivate. Additionally, hoary cress is able to tolerate high levels of salinity and drought, making it a useful plant in areas with limited access to water.

Another benefit of hoary cress is its potential to be used as a food source. The leaves and seeds of this plant are edible, and they contain high levels of protein and essential amino acids. In some cultures, hoary cress is considered a nutritious food, and it is often used to make soups, salads, and other dishes.

In addition to its potential as a food source, hoary cress has also been studied for its potential medicinal properties. Studies have shown that extracts from this plant have anti-inflammatory and antifungal effects, making it a promising candidate for the treatment of a range of health conditions.

Despite its many benefits, hoary cress is still primarily considered a weed, and it is often eradicated or controlled in agricultural fields and other managed landscapes. However, with increasing awareness of the benefits of this plant, there is a growing interest in utilizing hoary cress for its potential food, medicinal, and environmental applications.

Hoary cress is a fascinating plant that is often overlooked due to its reputation as a weed. However, with its ability to thrive in difficult conditions, potential as a food source, and potential medicinal benefits, it is clear that hoary cress is a plant worth learning more about.

While hoary cress is considered a weed by many, it is also an important plant species in many ecosystems. The plant is a crucial food source for many wildlife species, including birds and insects. For example, the seeds of hoary cress are a valuable food source for birds during the winter months when other food sources are scarce. The flowers of hoary cress are also an important source of nectar for pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and moths.

In addition to its ecological importance, hoary cress has a number of practical applications. For example, it has been used as a green manure crop, which is a crop that is grown to be plowed into the soil to improve soil fertility. When grown as a green manure crop, hoary cress helps to add organic matter to the soil and improve soil structure, making it easier for other crops to grow.

Another practical application of hoary cress is its use in phytoremediation, which is the use of plants to remove pollutants from the environment. Hoary cress has been found to be effective in removing heavy metals from contaminated soil, making it a useful tool for cleaning up contaminated sites.

Hoary cress is a plant that has much more to offer than its reputation as a weed would suggest. With its ability to grow in harsh environments, potential as a food source and medicinal plant, and important role in ecosystems and practical applications, hoary cress is a plant that is definitely worth learning more about. Whether you are a farmer, a gardener, or just someone interested in the natural world, hoary cress is a plant that is sure to surprise and impress you with its many benefits and uses.

Another unique aspect of hoary cress is its ability to survive in cold and arid climates, making it an important plant species in many high-altitude and desert regions. In these areas, hoary cress is able to grow where other plants cannot, and it helps to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. This makes it a valuable plant for preventing desertification and restoring degraded landscapes.

In addition to its ecological and practical applications, hoary cress has also been the subject of scientific research in recent years. Scientists are interested in the plant's tolerance to harsh conditions and its ability to absorb and detoxify pollutants, and they are exploring its potential for use in various biotechnology applications. For example, researchers are investigating the use of hoary cress as a model organism for studying plant adaptation to stress, as well as its potential use in bioremediation and phytoremediation.

It is important to note that hoary cress is a highly invasive species in some regions, and it can be difficult to control once it has established itself in an area. However, with proper management and control measures in place, hoary cress can be a valuable resource for farmers, gardeners, and the environment.

Hoary cress is a remarkable plant that is often overlooked due to its reputation as a weed. However, its ability to grow in difficult conditions, potential as a food source and medicinal plant, ecological and practical applications, and scientific significance make it a plant worth exploring. Whether you are interested in sustainable agriculture, environmental protection, or just want to learn more about the natural world, hoary cress is a plant that is sure to pique your interest.

It's worth mentioning that hoary cress has a fascinating history as well. The plant has been used for food and medicinal purposes by indigenous peoples for thousands of years, and it has a rich cultural significance in many parts of the world. For example, in traditional European medicine, hoary cress was used to treat a variety of ailments, such as digestive problems, skin conditions, and respiratory infections. In some cultures, hoary cress was also believed to have spiritual and magical properties, and it was used in various rituals and ceremonies.

Despite its long history of use, hoary cress is still not well-known or well-understood by many people. However, as awareness of the benefits of this plant grows, there is a growing interest in learning more about hoary cress and its potential uses.

In recent years, hoary cress has gained attention as a potential crop for use in sustainable agriculture. The plant's ability to grow in harsh conditions, its potential as a food source, and its ability to improve soil fertility make it an attractive crop for farmers and gardeners who are looking for ways to cultivate food in areas that are difficult to farm.

In conclusion, hoary cress is a fascinating and underappreciated plant species with a rich history and many benefits. Whether you are interested in food and agriculture, environmental protection, or the natural world, hoary cress is a plant that is worth exploring. With its unique abilities and potential applications, hoary cress is sure to surprise and impress anyone who takes the time to learn more about this remarkable plant.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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