Open the Advanced Search

Wavy Bittercress

Cardamine flexuosa

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, 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, White Mustard, Wild Cabbage, Wild Candytuft, Wild Radish, Wild Turnip, Wintercress, Woad, Yellow Whitlowgrass
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
50 centimetres tall
Gardens, riverbanks, riversides, swamps, waterside, woodland.

White, 4 petals
Tiny and forming clusters at the top. 4 white petals with 6 yellow stamens. Counting the number of stamens is perhaps the most reliable way to distinguish this flower from the almost identical Hairy Bittercress which has 4 yellow stamens.
Long, thin, cylindrical seed pods which usually are lower than the topmost flowers. This is useful to know when trying to distinguish this flower from Hairy Bittercress which has seed pods that normally overtop the flowers.
The basal rosette has alternate leaves. Stem leaves are compound with 3-6 pairs of leaflets and a terminal leaflet. Leaflets are wavy edged. The upright main stem upon which the leaves emerge from are likely to be zigzagged or wavy after which the plant is named.
The leaves are aromatic when bruised.
Other Names:
Common Bittercress, Flick Weed, Greater Bittercress, Lady's Smock, Wavy-leaved Bittercress, Wood Bittercress, Woodland Bittercress.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Cardamine flexuosa, also known as wavy bittercress or lady's smock, is a small, annual 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. flexuosa 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.


Wavy Bittercress is a wild edible plant that belongs to the Brassicaceae family. It is also known as Cardamine flexuosa, a perennial herb that is native to Europe but is also found in North America and Asia. This plant is considered invasive in some parts of the world and is known for its ability to spread rapidly.

Wavy Bittercress is a low-growing plant that typically reaches a height of 6-12 cm (2-4 inches). The leaves of this plant are light green and wavy in shape, and its small white flowers bloom from March to May. This plant is often found in damp habitats such as marshes, stream banks, and meadows.

The leaves, stems, and seeds of Wavy Bittercress are all edible, and the plant has been used for centuries as a food source. The leaves have a bitter taste, which gives the plant its common name, but they can also be used to add flavor to salads, sandwiches, and soups. The seeds of this plant can also be roasted and used as a substitute for coffee.

In addition to its culinary uses, Wavy Bittercress has been used in traditional medicine for various purposes. The plant is believed to have diuretic, expectorant, and antispasmodic properties, and it has been used to treat various ailments such as coughs, headaches, and digestive problems.

Wavy Bittercress is also considered a beneficial plant for wildlife. The plant is a food source for various insects, including butterflies, and its flowers provide nectar for bees and other pollinators.

Despite its many uses, Wavy Bittercress can be a nuisance in some gardens and agricultural fields. The plant is considered invasive because it can spread quickly and outcompete other plants for resources. In these cases, controlling the spread of Wavy Bittercress is important.

One effective method of control is to remove the plant manually, making sure to remove all of the roots so that it does not regrow. Another option is to use mulch to prevent the growth of the plant. Covering the ground with a layer of mulch can help to smother the plant and prevent it from spreading.

In agricultural fields, crop rotation can also be effective in controlling the spread of Wavy Bittercress. This method involves planting crops in different fields each year, which helps to prevent the buildup of Wavy Bittercress in one area.

In addition, the use of herbicides can also be effective in controlling the spread of Wavy Bittercress. However, it is important to be mindful of the potential harm that herbicides can have on other plants and wildlife. If you are considering using herbicides, it is recommended to choose a selective herbicide that targets Wavy Bittercress specifically and has a low impact on other plants and wildlife.

Wavy Bittercress is a versatile and hardy plant that is well adapted to a variety of growing conditions. This plant is easy to grow and can be started from seeds or cuttings. It is a great choice for gardeners who want to add a touch of wildness to their garden or who are interested in growing their own food.

In terms of growing conditions, Wavy Bittercress is a shade-tolerant plant that can grow in partial sun or full shade. It prefers moist soils and can be grown in damp habitats such as stream banks, marshes, and meadows. It is also drought-tolerant and can grow in soils that are well-draining.

When growing Wavy Bittercress, it is important to choose a location that is suitable for the plant's growth habits. This plant can spread rapidly, so it is important to space it out appropriately or to contain it in a container if you do not want it to spread.

Wavy Bittercress is a low-maintenance plant that does not require much care once it is established. It does not need to be fertilized and can be left to grow on its own. However, it is important to keep the plant from spreading too much by removing any unwanted shoots.

In conclusion, Wavy Bittercress is a great choice for gardeners who are looking for a versatile and hardy plant that is easy to grow. This plant can be used for food, medicine, and wildlife support, and it is well adapted to a variety of growing conditions. Whether you are looking to add a touch of wildness to your garden or to grow your own food, Wavy Bittercress is definitely worth considering.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map