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Northern Yellowcress

Rorippa islandica

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.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


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 Bittercress, Narrow-leaved Pepperwort, Northern Rock-cress, 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:
30 centimetres tall
Bogs, ditches, fens, meadows, mud, riversides, rocky places, seaside, waterside, wetland.

Yellow, 4 petals
Clusters of tiny yellow flowers.
Fruit pods, 2 or 3 times as long as their stalks. Up to 8mm long and 3mm wide. 2-valved. Many seeded.
An annual flower similar to Marsh Yellowcress (Rorippa palustris). This is a procument plant, Marsh Yellowcress grows more erect. The leaves of Northern Yellowcress are dark green and pinnately lobed. Stalkless upper leaves. The leaves are alternate along the stems.
Other Names:
Iceland Watercress, Icelandic Yellowcress, Northern Marsh Yellowcress.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Rorippa islandica, also known as Icelandic yellowcress, is a perennial herb in the family Brassicaceae. It is native to North America, Europe and Asia, but it is most commonly found in cold and wet habitats such as bogs, fens, and wet meadows. This herb has small yellow flowers and basal rosettes of leaves, it is also considered to be a good food source for waterfowl and it has also been traditionally used for medicinal purposes, mainly as a diuretic and as a remedy for kidney and bladder problems. It is also used in traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.


Northern Yellowcress, also known as Rorippa islandica, is a hardy perennial plant that is commonly found in wet, marshy areas of the Northern Hemisphere. This small, inconspicuous plant is often overlooked, but it is a valuable source of food and medicine for many animals and people.

One of the most notable characteristics of Northern Yellowcress is its ability to grow in harsh, wet environments. This plant is often found along the edges of streams, rivers, and ponds, as well as in marshes and bogs. The leaves of the plant are typically green and lance-shaped, while the small, yellow flowers bloom in the spring and summer.

Despite its small size, Northern Yellowcress is an important food source for many animals. Birds, mammals, and insects all rely on the plant for nutrition, and it is especially valuable for pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Additionally, the plant is also used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including colds, flu, and digestive issues.

In terms of cultivation, Northern Yellowcress is relatively easy to grow in the right conditions. The plant prefers a moist, well-drained soil, and it should be placed in a location that receives partial shade. It can also be propagated by seed or by dividing the roots of established plants.

Another important aspect of Northern Yellowcress is its ability to tolerate and even thrive in environments with high levels of heavy metals, making it a potential candidate for phytoremediation projects. Phytoremediation is the use of plants to clean up contaminated soil, air, and water. Northern Yellowcress has been found to be able to absorb and accumulate heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, and zinc from contaminated soils, making it a valuable tool for environmental clean-up efforts.

In addition, Northern Yellowcress is also edible and has been traditionally used as a food source by indigenous people. The leaves and young stems of the plant can be eaten raw or cooked and are said to have a tangy, mustard-like flavor. It can be used as a salad green or added to soups and stews.

However, it is important to note that Northern Yellowcress should only be consumed in small quantities and only if it is collected from an unpolluted area. Due to its ability to absorb and accumulate heavy metals, plants collected from contaminated soils may contain harmful levels of toxins.

In summary, Northern Yellowcress, or Rorippa islandica, is a versatile and valuable plant that plays an important role in its ecosystem. It is a food source for many animals, has medicinal properties, and can be used for phytoremediation efforts. It's also edible, but should be consumed in small quantities and only if it is collected from an unpolluted area. This plant is not just a simple weed, but a unique and valuable species that should be appreciated for its many benefits.

Another important aspect of Northern Yellowcress is its ability to tolerate and even thrive in heavily disturbed and degraded habitats. This makes it a valuable plant for restoration and reclamation projects, as it can help to stabilize and improve the health of damaged ecosystems.

In addition to its ecological value, Northern Yellowcress also has potential as a crop plant. The leaves and young shoots of the plant can be eaten raw or cooked, and they are high in vitamins and minerals. The plant has a slightly bitter taste, but it can be used as a flavorful and nutritious addition to salads, sandwiches, and soups.

However, it is important to note that Northern Yellowcress can be confused with other, similar looking plants. It is important to correctly identify the plant before consuming it as some look-alikes may be toxic or poisonous.

In conclusion, Northern Yellowcress is a valuable and versatile plant that offers many benefits to both wildlife and humans. Its ability to tolerate and even thrive in disturbed and degraded habitats makes it an important tool for restoration and reclamation projects, while its potential as a crop plant offers new opportunities for sustainable food production.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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