Open the Advanced Search

American Wintercress

Barbarea verna

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, 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, 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:
Biennial or Perennial
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Gardens, roadsides, wasteland.

Yellow, 4 petals
Flowers appear inside terminal spikes at the top of the plant. American Wintercress has larger flowers than Early Wintercress (Barbarea intermedia). Pollinated by flies, beetles and bees.
The fruit is a cylindrical pod which curved upwards towards the sky. The seeds ripen from June to August.
The lower leaves of American Wintercress are pinnately lobed. Early Wintercress is a similar species but has fewer lobes and darker green leaves. The stem leaves are narrowly pinnate and the end lobe is smaller than that of Early Wintercress. Annual or biennial. Deciduous. Usually encountered in the UK as a garden escape.
Other Names:
American Cress, Bank Cress, Belle Isle Cress, Early Cress, Early Yellow Rocket, Land Cress, Normandy Cress, Peppergrass, Upland Cress, Vernal Wintercress, Watercress, Winter Cress, Yellow Cress, Yellow Rocket.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Barbarea verna, also known as vernal wintercress, spring-barbarea, or yellow rocketcress, is a species of flowering plant in the mustard family. It is native to Europe, but it has been introduced and naturalized in many other regions, including North America. It typically grows in moist, disturbed areas such as along roadsides and in waste places, and is considered a noxious weed in some areas. The plant has yellow flowers and leaves that are lobed and toothed. It is considered a winter annual plant, which means it completes its life cycle within one year. Vernal wintercress is an early spring-flowering plant, with bright yellow flowers appearing before the leaves.


American Wintercress (Barbarea verna) is a hardy, cool-season annual or biennial plant native to North America. It is a member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae) and is often found growing wild in fields, meadows, and along roadsides. This plant is known for its bright yellow flowers, which bloom in early spring, and its edible leaves and stems that are high in vitamins and minerals.

American Wintercress is easy to grow and care for, making it a popular choice for home gardens and agricultural fields. It is drought-tolerant, resistant to pests and diseases, and can thrive in a variety of soil types. The plant can grow up to 12 inches tall and has a spreading habit, which makes it ideal for use as a groundcover or for planting in borders.

The leaves of American Wintercress are edible and can be used in a variety of dishes. They have a slightly bitter flavor that makes them a great addition to salads, sandwiches, and stir-fries. The young leaves are particularly tender and flavorful, making them a great addition to springtime recipes. The plant's stems and seeds can also be used, though they are less commonly consumed.

In addition to its culinary uses, American Wintercress is also valued for its medicinal properties. The plant has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including wounds, skin irritations, and respiratory problems. The leaves and stems contain high levels of vitamin C, which is known to boost the immune system and help fight infections.

American Wintercress is an excellent plant for those looking to add a pop of color and flavor to their garden. It is a hardy and versatile plant that is easy to grow and care for, making it a great choice for both novice and experienced gardeners. Whether used for its edible leaves or its medicinal properties, this plant is sure to be a valuable addition to any garden.

In addition to its culinary and medicinal uses, American Wintercress is also popular among pollinators and wildlife. The bright yellow flowers are a valuable source of nectar for bees, butterflies, and other insects, making it an important plant for supporting local ecosystems. Birds, such as goldfinches, also enjoy eating the seeds of American Wintercress.

When planting American Wintercress, it's important to choose a location that provides full sun to partial shade. The plant is relatively low maintenance and can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, but it prefers well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. American Wintercress is also quite drought-tolerant, so it's a good choice for gardens with limited water resources.

American Wintercress is also a great plant for container gardening. It's compact size and spreading habit make it a great choice for planting in pots, window boxes, and hanging baskets. When growing American Wintercress in containers, it's important to choose a well-draining soil mix and to water regularly to prevent the soil from drying out.

Overall, American Wintercress is a valuable plant that offers a range of benefits for gardeners and the environment. Whether grown for its culinary, medicinal, or ornamental uses, this plant is sure to be a valuable addition to any garden. So why not give it a try in your garden this spring and enjoy the many benefits of this versatile and hardy plant.

One thing to keep in mind when growing American Wintercress is that it can become invasive if not managed properly. This is because the plant readily self-seeds, which can lead to an overpopulation of the species in a particular area. To prevent this, it's a good idea to remove spent flowers before they go to seed, or to grow American Wintercress in containers where it can be more easily controlled.

Another potential issue with American Wintercress is that it can be toxic to livestock. While the plant is safe for human consumption, it contains compounds that can be harmful to livestock if consumed in large quantities. Gardeners who keep livestock should take care to keep them away from American Wintercress or plant it in a location where the animals can't reach it.

Despite these potential issues, American Wintercress is still a valuable plant for gardeners and the environment. With its bright yellow flowers, tender and flavorful leaves, and medicinal properties, this plant is sure to bring a range of benefits to any garden. Whether grown for its ornamental, culinary, or medicinal uses, American Wintercress is a hardy and versatile plant that is well worth considering for your garden this spring.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map