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Narrow-leaved Bittercress

Cardamine impatiens

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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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 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 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:
40 centimetres tall
Cliffs, riversides, roadsides, rocky places, walls, woodland.

White, 4 petals
Clusters of tiny, 4-petaled, white flowers. 6 stamens. The similar looking Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) usually only has 4 stamens. Pollinated by bees, flies, butterflies and months.
The fruit is a cylindrical pod. The seeds ripen from May to September.
A biennial plant wit pinnate leaves. There are several pairs of deeply toothed, lance-shaped leaves. The leaves clasp their stems. Hairless with straight stems. The similar Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa) has often got zigzagged stems. Often found growing on limestone pavements.
Other Names:
Lady's Smock, Narrowleaf Bittercress.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Cardamine impatiens, also known as narrow-leaved bittercress or lady's smock, is a small, annual herb that is native to North America and Europe. It is known for its small, white flowers and pinnately divided leaves. The plant is a common weed in gardens and cultivated fields and is often considered a nuisance because it can spread rapidly. It is a member of the mustard family and has a slightly bitter taste, which has led to its use as a culinary herb in some traditional dishes. Despite its reputation as a weed, C. impatiens has been used medicinally in the past to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory problems and skin irritation. The plant prefers moist, well-drained soils and can tolerate partial shade, but it prefers full sun. It is often found in damp, wooded areas or along streambanks.


Narrow-leaved Bittercress, also known as Cardamine impatiens, is a small and common weed that is found in many parts of the world. It is a member of the mustard family and is easily recognized by its tiny white flowers and slender leaves. Despite its small size, this weed can cause big problems for gardeners and farmers. In this blog, we will take a closer look at the Narrow-leaved Bittercress and what you need to know to control it.

Identification: Narrow-leaved Bittercress is a small plant that grows to a height of 10-40 cm. The leaves are slender and lance-shaped, and they grow from the base of the plant. The white flowers are small, but they are produced in large numbers and can be seen from a distance. The seeds are housed in tiny pods that are about the size of a pea. When the pods mature, they burst open and release their seeds, which can then grow into new plants.

Life Cycle: Narrow-leaved Bittercress is an annual plant, which means that it completes its life cycle in one year. It is a very fast-growing plant and can produce seeds in as little as 40 days after germination. This rapid growth and quick seed production make Narrow-leaved Bittercress a very difficult weed to control.

Habitat: Narrow-leaved Bittercress is found in a variety of habitats, including gardens, fields, and waste areas. It prefers moist soils and is often found growing in damp areas, such as along streams and in low-lying fields.

Impact: Narrow-leaved Bittercress is a major problem for farmers and gardeners because it competes with crops and ornamental plants for nutrients and moisture. It is also difficult to control because it produces a large number of seeds, which can quickly spread and form new plants.

Control: The best way to control Narrow-leaved Bittercress is to prevent it from producing seeds. This can be done by pulling the plants before they go to seed, or by mowing the plants when they are in flower. If you are unable to prevent seed production, you may need to use a herbicide to control the weed. Be sure to follow the label instructions when using any herbicide, and take care to avoid harming non-target plants.

Edible Uses: Although Narrow-leaved Bittercress is considered a weed, the young leaves and shoots of the plant are edible and can be used as a culinary herb. The leaves have a slightly bitter taste and are often used to add flavor to salads, soups, and other dishes.

Medical Uses: Narrow-leaved Bittercress has been used for medicinal purposes for many years. The plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including skin problems, respiratory problems, and digestive issues. However, it is important to note that there is limited scientific evidence to support these uses, and that more research is needed to determine the safety and efficacy of using Narrow-leaved Bittercress for medicinal purposes.

Invasive Species: In some areas, Narrow-leaved Bittercress has become an invasive species. This means that it is spreading rapidly and is displacing native plants. In these areas, it is important to control Narrow-leaved Bittercress to protect native plant communities and prevent further spread.

Integrated Pest Management: In addition to using herbicides, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can be an effective way to control Narrow-leaved Bittercress. IPM is a holistic approach to pest control that emphasizes the use of non-toxic methods, such as cultural and biological control, before resorting to chemicals.

Cultural Control: Cultural control involves manipulating the growing conditions to make it difficult for Narrow-leaved Bittercress to establish and grow. For example, maintaining a healthy and competitive lawn or garden can help to reduce the number of weeds that are able to grow. In addition, mulching can help to suppress weed growth by blocking the light that weeds need to grow.

Biological Control: Biological control involves using natural predators or parasites to control pests. For Narrow-leaved Bittercress, there are a number of insect species that feed on the plant and can help to reduce its impact. For example, the flea beetle (Phyllotreta spp.) is a common predator of Narrow-leaved Bittercress and can help to reduce its populations.

Herbicide Resistance: Over time, Narrow-leaved Bittercress can develop resistance to certain herbicides. This means that repeated use of the same herbicide can lead to a decline in its effectiveness. To reduce the risk of herbicide resistance, it is important to use a variety of control methods and to rotate the herbicides that are used.

Final Thoughts: Narrow-leaved Bittercress may be small, but it can cause big problems for gardeners and farmers. To control this weed, it is important to prevent seed production and, if necessary, use a herbicide. With proper management, Narrow-leaved Bittercress can be kept under control and its negative impact on crops and ornamental plants can be reduced.

In conclusion, Narrow-leaved Bittercress is a small but pesky weed that can cause problems for gardeners and farmers. To control this weed, it is important to use a variety of methods, including cultural control, biological control, and, if necessary, herbicides. By following these tips, you can keep Narrow-leaved Bittercress under control and protect your crops and ornamental plants.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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