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Hairy Bittercress

Cardamine hirsuta

Hairy Bittercress, Wintercress, Common Bittercress,

 Snapweed, or Shotweed
 

Bittercress is a very troublesome weed here in Charlotte in recent years.  I first saw this in my lawn in 2013.  There are multiple problems.  It seeds very quickly (5 or 6 days) and shoots them out for some two to three feet from the parent plant. Hence the name Snapweed or Shotweed. This attribute allows Bittercress to spread more rapidly than most weeds.  In the Charlotte area Bittercress will first appear any time it is warm in the fall and winter.  It looks a little like chickweed and is easy to control with most broadleaf weedkillers.  Those who don’t want to use any chemicals will fight a losing battle if they try to pull it all by hand.

The weed is edible and does not have a bitter taste to it as mentioned below.  I have tasted it also; I am sure it would be a fine green for a salad, but I don’t want it in my lawn or flower bed.  Take my word for it, Bittercress spreads very fast.  It also likes moisture, weak soil and great soil.  It just grows bigger in good soil.  There are approximately 150 sub-species.  As I first wrote this, it was mid December 2015 and been extremely wet and warm.  These are perfect conditions, and I drove around Charlotte the other day and found it in many locations.

I read an article recently that was from the midwest and the author said that as the winter snow disappears you can look down and see the white flowers of the Hairy Wintercrest.  The author mentioned that those seeds would germinate in six days.  We don’t have much snow here and I have observed the weed in flower beds and the lawn.  In fact I sprayed Hair Wintercrest in mid November and would have started earlier except that it was pretty wet after a 40 day drought.  I am ready to spray again because I am beginning to plants with little white flowers again.  December 15th.  If I keep an eye out for the weed, a little spot spraying keeps it under control.  There is an condo project down the block from me and Hairy Wintercress has really invaded their lawn.  Like many plants / weeds, they are not always a problem in some areas (there are a few updates to this article.  12/15/2016)

The comments below were taken from davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/90173.  I like my photos better but these comments are helpful.

hairy bittercress 2

 

 

 

Interesting comments below from Daves garden

On Apr 9, 2012, jagdoran from Pirkkala,
Finland wrote:

I have been plagued with this noxious weed for six years or more. In another post, a reader suggested that it requires a rich loamasy soil. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have two bluestone drives where they flourish with abandon. I don't generally return from Fl. until after they set seed and I spend my first two weeks home on my knees and usually hand pick three large trash bags full. My son visited my property while they were in flower and sprayed with Roundup(3 gallons) so we'll see if that was effective.This was the last week of March on Cape Cod ,Ma.They got a good jump with the warm winter/spring.Good luck, Jagdoran

Negative

On Feb 22, 2010, enyeholt from Village of Port Clements,
Canada wrote:

I have been asking around about this weed, as I have been fighting with it for over 30 years, and realized I don't have a name for it. Now I do, Thank you.

It's a survivor for sure, here on the Queen Charlotte Islands
B.C. Canada. 

Pull it before it even thinks about setting seed.!!!

Negative

On Mar 12, 2008, Dodsky from Smiths Grove, KY (Zone 6b) wrote:

This is one of those plants that once it gets a foothold in your yard it's nearly impossible to get rid of. The plant itself is relatively easy to pull out, but if you make the mistake of letting it go to seed it's most likely in your yard to stay. The seeds are produced very quickly and in mass quantities, plus they are easily disbursed by not only the shot-like effect of the mature seed pods bursting (seeds can be propelled several feet!), but they are so small they are easily picked up and moved to other areas by people, animals, wind, water, etc.

I've seen tiny plants no bigger than a quarter in diameter send up flowers that eventually produce lots of seeds even though you'd think the plant isn't big enough to flower, let alone produce pod after pod of seeds. It's def... read more

Negative

On Feb 10, 2008, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

Even thought I have not seen it in my yard, I have seen it in other location - this weed tend to prefer high organic soil - ie rich soil basically the soil is straight out black and clumpy. I have never seen it thrive in sandy soil with less % of organic soil. Vary from one location to another - can be rare in some location but a true weed in other locations.

Positive

On Jun 12, 2006, lunavox from Seattle, WA (Zone 8b) wrote:

I also really like the taste of bittercress. To me it tastes like a combination of broccoli and mustard flavors. Yum!

Positive

On Nov 1, 2005, michelefitz from Cardiff,
United Kingdom wrote:

I have found Hairy Bittercress is quite a nice tasting addition to a salad. Patrick Whitefield in his book "How to Make a Forest Garden" says "Despite it name, this little plant is not noticeably hairy and not at all bitter. It is in fact the best tasting of all the cresses, nutty, with just a hint of pepperiness..."
 

Positive

On May 2, 2005, Sherlock_Holmes from Rife, PA (Zone 6a) wrote:

Most people consider Hairy Bittercress to be a noxious weed. And in many ways it is. However, despite that negative point, I have found in a book, Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America, that there is something positive to note. The book states that Native Water-Cress (Cardamine pennsylvanica) is very similar to the market Water-Cress (Nasturtium officinale) and that other species of the Genus (Cardamine) doubtless have similar qualities of edibility. All three plants are in the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae).

I have taken the time to sample some of the leaves of Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) and have found them to be rather pleasant in taste. I agree with what I read on a webpage that calling it Bittercress is misleading because it doesn't taste bitter at all. I would just as readily add this plant to a spring salad as I would lettuce, spinach, or dandelion.

Those who find it to be noxious anyway, despite its possibility as a salad ingredient, can rest assured that it is rather easy to pull out of the soil. As for stopping it from propagating itself, that is a different story. :)

Negative

On Apr 23, 2005, melindamcwhite from Potomac, MD wrote:

This is a terrible weed that easily takes over a garden by flowering in late winter/early spring when the gardener is inside by a nice warm fire. If you see it, pull it out.

Negative

On Mar 2, 2005, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

An invasive little weed that can take over cultivated fields.

It is a winter annual here in West KY with the tiny racemes producing flowers in January and Feburary. It produces small, rounded clumps 4" to 8" wide and reseeds with abandon.

The common names Snapweed and Shotweed refer to the way the seeds are propeled for great distances when the pods burst.

To make matters worse...it is a host plant for aphids.

Read more: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/90173/#ixzz3vovZRdTy

This photo was taken in late December of 2015.  Some plants were starting to flower.  I will post other photos here as the plants mature.

jmm

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