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Learn About Weeds! Hairy Cress - Cardamine hirsuta

Hairy Cress (Cardamine hirsuta) in early spring

On my daily walks around my neighborhood during quarantine, I look for interesting plants growing in out-of-the-way places. The other day I found this weed, Cardamine hirsuta, growing in our nearby bioswale. I always love seeing Cardamine hirsuta because it is one of the earliest plants to flower. It will flower even in the coldest of weather. I have seen it flower in late February here in the northeast. Clusters of small, white flowers emerge on thin stalks from a basal rosette*.

Basal rosette of Hairy Cress (Cardamine hirsuta)

I also like this plant because it is a member of one of my favorite plant families – Brassicaceae – the mustard or cabbage family. The Brassicaceae family contains so many edible plants – our cruciferous vegetables – from cabbages to kale to radishes, but also many garden flowers like alyssum, candy tuft (Iberis) and matthiola (stock). Other interesting Brassicaceae family members include horseradish, and the quite famous model organism, Arabidopsis thaliana.

Flowers of Hairy Cress (Cardamine hirsuta)

Like many other members of the Brassicaceae, Cardamine hirsuta is indeed edible. Harvest tender leaves from the basal rosette. They look similar in shape to other types of cress you may have eaten. The leaves have a peppery taste and are nice added to a salad. Is you are able to harvest a good quantity, you can use them to make a cress soup or potage.

Other names for Cardamine hirsuta are “pop weed” or “shot weed” because it produces dehiscent* seeds – seeds which are dispersed explosively from dry seed pods. If you walk through a patch of Cardamine hirsuta you will hear seed pods popping and observe seeds scattering in every direction. For this reason, it is important to keep this weed under control in the garden landscape. Be sure to remove Cardamine hirsuta in the early spring before it goes to seed.

Take a break and get outdoors during the quarantine! Close observations of the botanical world will produce some interesting finds. See if you can find Cardamine hirsuta.

*Learn Botanical Terminology

Basal rosette: a circular cluster of leaves growing at the base of the plant stem

Dehiscent seeds: a ballistic form of seed dispersal, seeds are projected away from the plant as the seed pod opens

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I harvested a little knotweed intending to cook it up, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. It is such a zombie, I thought I would get some sort of knotweed alien monster bursting out of my chest if I ate it. But there's still plenty of small shoots, so maybe today I'll go out and try it again.


Great photos! And oh so glad to have had something to add to my salade!

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