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Hairy Bittercress

Cardamine 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 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:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, rocky places, swamps, walls, wasteland, wetland, woodland.

White, 4 petals
Tiny and forming clusters at the top. 4 white petals with 4 yellow stamens. Counting the number of stamens is perhaps the most reliable way to distinguish this flower from the almost identical Wavy Bittercress which has 6 yellow stamens.
Long and slender seed pods that split open when ripe.
Basal rosette, anything up to 9 inches long. Compound leaves with alternate leaflets that have one leaf per node along the main upright stem. The leaves persist throughout the winter months.
The leaves are aromatic when bruised.
Other Names:
Common Bittercress, Flick Weed, Hoary Bittercress, Hoary Wood Cress, Jumping Jesus, Lamb's Cress, Land Cress, Pennsylvania Bittercress, Pepperweed, Popping Cress, Shotweed, Small Bittercress, Snapweed, Spring Cress.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Cardamine hirsuta, also known as hairy bittercress or hoary bittercress, is a small, annual herb that is native to North America and Europe. It is known for its small, white flowers and hairy, 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. hirsuta has been used medicinally in the past to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory problems and skin irritation.


Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) is a small, herbaceous plant that belongs to the mustard family (Brassicaceae). It is native to Europe and Asia, but has spread to North America and other parts of the world. This plant is considered a weed in many countries because of its quick growth and ability to invade gardens, agricultural fields, and natural habitats.

Hairy Bittercress is an annual plant that grows up to 30 cm tall. It has small, white or pink flowers that bloom from spring to summer. The leaves are hairless and lance-shaped, and the stems are covered in fine, white hairs. The plant produces seeds in a long, slender capsule that splits open when ripe to release the seeds, which can be spread by wind or water.

This plant is called "bittercress" because of the bitter taste of its leaves and seeds. Although it is not considered a culinary herb, some people have used the leaves in salads or as a garnish. In traditional medicine, the plant has been used to treat digestive problems, respiratory ailments, and skin conditions.

Despite its widespread reputation as a weed, Hairy Bittercress has some benefits. For example, it is a source of food and habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects, such as bees, butterflies, and ladybugs. It is also used as a cover crop in organic agriculture to improve soil fertility and suppress weeds.

If you find Hairy Bittercress in your garden or fields, you can control its spread by removing it manually, using mulch, or applying an herbicide. However, be careful when using herbicides, as they can harm other plants and animals. If you want to prevent Hairy Bittercress from establishing in your garden, it is important to remove any plant parts that contain seeds before they mature.

Hairy Bittercress is a prolific seed producer, and it can produce up to 50 seeds per plant. This makes it a particularly challenging weed to control, as just a few plants can quickly produce a large number of seeds that can spread throughout the area.

One of the reasons Hairy Bittercress is so successful as a weed is its ability to germinate at different times of the year. In some areas, it can germinate in the fall, while in others it can germinate in the spring or summer. This means that it is able to establish itself in a variety of habitats and environments.

In addition to being a weed in gardens and fields, Hairy Bittercress can also become a problem in lawns. It is able to grow in the shade and in compacted soils, which makes it a common weed in lawns. If you have a problem with Hairy Bittercress in your lawn, you can remove it manually or use a selective herbicide.

Another way to control Hairy Bittercress is to plant ground covers or other plants that will shade out the weed. This will prevent it from establishing itself in the area and reduce the amount of sunlight it receives. This can be especially effective in shaded areas where Hairy Bittercress tends to thrive.

It's important to note that while Hairy Bittercress is considered a weed in many parts of the world, it is not a danger to human health or the environment. It is not toxic and does not cause any significant harm to other plants or animals.

However, it can be a nuisance in gardens and lawns, and it can also interfere with the growth of other plants. For example, Hairy Bittercress can compete with other plants for light, water, and nutrients, and it can also produce chemicals that can inhibit the growth of other plants.

In addition to its invasive nature, Hairy Bittercress can also be difficult to control because of its ability to adapt to different growing conditions. For example, it can tolerate a wide range of soil types and pH levels, and it can grow in areas with varying levels of moisture. This means that it can thrive in a variety of habitats, from shady woods to open fields.

Despite these challenges, Hairy Bittercress is not impossible to control. The key is to use a combination of methods, such as removing it manually, using mulch or a selective herbicide, and planting ground covers or other plants that will shade it out. By taking a comprehensive approach to weed control, you can effectively manage Hairy Bittercress and maintain a healthy, thriving garden or lawn.

In conclusion, Hairy Bittercress is a persistent weed that can be difficult to control due to its ability to germinate at different times of the year, produce large numbers of seeds, and adapt to a variety of growing conditions. However, by using a combination of control methods and taking a comprehensive approach to weed management, you can effectively control Hairy Bittercress and maintain a healthy, thriving garden or lawn.


Hairy Bittercress filmed in Rivington, Lancashire on the 18th June 2022.


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