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Large Bittercress

Cardamine amara

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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, 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:
60 centimetres tall
Fens, marshes, riversides, waterside, woodland.

White, 4 petals
4 white petals which are very occasionally purple, up to 12mm wide. Flowers clustering together at the top of the plant. 6 stamens, purple anthers.
Long, thin, flat seed pods that eventually split open lengthwise.
Without a basal rosette, as with Hairy Bittercress and Wavy Bittercress. The basal leaves are long-stalked and the upper stem leaves are very short-stalked. The leaves run alternate along the stem and have up to 5 paired leaflets, plus the terminal leaflet. The individual leaflets are elliptical in shape and with edges that are smooth and wavy, or toothed. Not hairy. The leaves are present all year round.
The leaves are aromatic when bruised.
Other Names:
Bittercress, Narrow-leaved Bittercress.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Cardamine amara, also known as bittercress or narrow-leaved bittercress, is a small, perennial herb that is native to Europe and Asia. 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. amara 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.


Large Bittercress (Cardamine amara) is a common weed that grows in various regions throughout the world. Although it is often considered a nuisance in gardens and cultivated fields, this plant has a number of benefits that make it worth taking a closer look at.

One of the most notable benefits of Large Bittercress is its versatility as a food source. Its leaves and young shoots are edible and have a bitter, tangy flavor that makes them a popular addition to salads and other dishes. The plant is also a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and potassium.

In addition to its culinary uses, Large Bittercress has a number of other benefits. For example, it is a great companion plant for other garden plants, as it helps to deter harmful insects and other pests. This is due to the fact that the plant contains a number of compounds that are toxic to insects, including a type of mustard oil that is toxic to many types of caterpillars and other insect larvae.

Another benefit of Large Bittercress is its ability to act as a natural fertilizer. This plant is capable of fixing nitrogen from the air and making it available to other plants in the soil, which can help to improve soil fertility and promote healthy growth. This makes it a useful addition to any garden or cultivated field, where it can help to improve the overall health of the soil.

Large Bittercress is also a valuable source of medicine, and has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. The plant contains a number of compounds that have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, making it useful in the treatment of conditions such as arthritis and skin infections.

Despite its many benefits, Large Bittercress is often considered a weed, and is frequently removed from gardens and cultivated fields. However, it is worth taking a closer look at this plant, and considering its many benefits before removing it from your property. Whether you are looking for a versatile food source, a companion plant, a natural fertilizer, or a source of medicine, Large Bittercress is sure to deliver.

Large Bittercress is also known for its ability to grow in a variety of habitats, including disturbed soils, woodland margins, and even cracks in concrete. This makes it a resilient and hardy plant that can thrive in a range of environments, making it a useful tool for landscaping and restoration projects.

Additionally, Large Bittercress is a valuable food source for wildlife, including birds and small mammals. The plant produces seeds that are an important food source for many species, and its leaves and stems are also used by various animals for food and shelter.

It is important to note that Large Bittercress can spread rapidly, and can become invasive in some areas. In order to avoid this, it is recommended that the plant be regularly weeded, or planted in containers where it can be better controlled.

Another way to control the spread of Large Bittercress is to cultivate it for its various benefits, rather than just viewing it as a weed. By actively cultivating and harvesting the plant, you can help to prevent it from spreading and taking over your garden or fields.

Furthermore, Large Bittercress is an excellent source of nectar for pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and other insects. This makes it an important plant for supporting pollinator populations, which are essential for maintaining the health and productivity of our ecosystems.

In traditional medicine, Large Bittercress has been used to treat a range of ailments, including digestive problems, respiratory issues, and skin conditions. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties make it a valuable tool in the treatment of these conditions, and further research is being conducted to explore its potential in modern medicine.

In summary, Large Bittercress is a valuable and versatile plant that has much to offer. From its uses as a food source and a companion plant, to its benefits as a natural fertilizer and a source of medicine, this plant should not be overlooked. By actively cultivating and utilizing Large Bittercress, we can better appreciate its many benefits and help to preserve this important and valuable plant for future generations.


Large Bittercress filmed at Fairy Glen, Parbold, Lancashire on the 6th May 2023.


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