Cardamine hirsuta Hairy Bittercress is a winter annual broadleaf weed and is a member of the Brassicaceae or mustard family. Other common names include Bittercress, Flick Weed, Hoary Bittercress, Late winter and spring signal growth of all plants but especially weeds, like hairy bittercress weed. What is hairy bittercress? This article explains more as well as how to keep the weed under control. Hairy bittercress is a winter annual weed that germinates in the cool moist conditions of late fall. Seed pods pop and fly everywhere when lightly touched.
Hairy Bittercress is a winter annual broadleaf weed and is a member of the Brassicaceae or mustard family. Other common names include Bittercress, Flick Weed, Hoary Bittercress, Lamb’s Cress, Land Cress, Shot Weed, and Springcress. The genus name, Cardamine, is Greek for “Kardamon,” and translated means “cress.” The species name, hirsuta, is Latin and means”hairy.” This is about the tiny hairs on its leaves and stems.
The plant is native to Europe and Asia. It has been introduced in most of all other continents including North America, South America, Africa, and Australia. Hairy Bittercress is typically one of the first weeds to appear in spring. It may be seen in lawns, parks, gardens, and paved areas. It is capable of growing year-round when suitable environmental conditions are met. The seeds germinate in the fall or winter. Typically they are dormant in cold weather, and they resume their growth in the spring and produce more seeds. It has a 12-week lifecycle. They can quickly invade sparsely planted lawns or poorly mulched gardens. It is commonly found in sunny, damp, or disturbed soil.
The stems are erect, branched, and 3-10 inches tall. The root is fibrous and shallow. In the spring, clusters of tiny white flowers emerge that have cross-shaped petals on the ends of the stem. The small green leaves are mostly on the lower portion of the stem and form a flat rosette. Tiny hairs are on the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves. The fruits appear between March and May. They are siliquas or long narrow seed pods rods standing upright around the flower. When they mature, seeds are dispersed up to several feet from the plant. Each plant may produce 600 to 1000 seeds.
The weed quickly becomes prolific in the garden and is best controlled by prevention. Hand weeding and adequate mulching of garden beds are helpful. Frequent mowing in the early spring removes flowers before seeds develop. Selecting the correct turf grasses that can develop a dense ground cover is important. Proper fertilizing, mowing, and watering will encourage lawn growth and reduce weed establishment. If these measures fail, various pre-emergent or post-emergent herbicides may be used.
Hairy Bittercress flowers and leaves are edible and valuable nutrients. Although the name suggests that they may taste bitter, they actually have a mild peppery taste. A few sprigs may be added to salads, salsas, and pesto. The flowers are tougher to chew.
These plants are a food source for spring azure (Celatrina ladon) and falcate orange-tip caterpillars (Anthocharis midea). Hairy bittercress may also host aphids, whiteflies, and mites. Bumblebees are attracted to Hairy Bittercress for nectar and pollen. The weed attracts bees in the spring when other flowers are sparse. Early butterflies are also attracted to the tiny flowers.
Whole plant Kerry Wixted CC BY-NC 2.0 Whole plant Harry Rose CC BY 2.0 Leaf Harry Rose CC BY 2.0 Flower Harry Rose CC BY 2.0 Spider living on seed pod Stanze CC-BY-SA 2.0 Plant Kira Sims CC0 Seed Calla Veazie CC0 Plant Calla Veazie CC0 Immature Seedpod Kira Sims CC0 Seedling Kira Sims CC0 Form (Cabarrus County,NC)-Late Winter Hope Duckworth CC BY 4.0
- Attributes: Genus: Cardamine Species: hirsuta Family: Brassicaceae Life Cycle: Annual Recommended Propagation Strategy: Seed Country Or Region Of Origin: Eurasia Distribution: North America: Eastern and Southern US, West coast of US, Western and Eastern Canada; South America: Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Chile, Ecuador, Haiti, Jamaica, Uruguay, and Venezuela; Western and Southern Australia, New Zealand; Japan; South Africa Wildlife Value: Butterflies and bees are attracted to flowers for nectar and pollen. Edibility: Hairy Bittercress is an edible weed that has a mild peppery taste. A few sprigs can be added to a salad to add a bite. The flowers are edible, but they are tough to chew. The tender leaves are sources of Vitamin C, Ca+, Mg+, and Beta-carotene. Dimensions: Height: 0 ft. 3 in. – 0 ft. 10 in. Width: 0 ft. 3 in. – 0 ft. 6 in.
- Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Annual Edible Weed Habit/Form: Dense Growth Rate: Rapid Maintenance: High
- Cultural Conditions: Light: Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day) Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours) Soil Texture: Clay Loam (Silt) Sand Soil pH: Acid (<6.0) Alkaline (>8.0) Neutral (6.0-8.0) Soil Drainage: Moist NC Region: Coastal Mountains Piedmont USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a
- Fruit: Fruit Color: Brown/Copper Green Purple/Lavender Red/Burgundy Display/Harvest Time: Spring Fruit Type: Siliqua Fruit Length: < 1 inch Fruit Width: < 1 inch Fruit Description: The fruits appear as smooth, purplish-green siliqua standing upright around the flower. They turn reddish-brown when they mature. They measure 3/4 to 1 inch long. When dried the pods explode and release seeds up to 3 feet. The seeds germinate in the fall. They overwinter n a vegetative state. In the spring they flower and produce more seeds. Reportedly, each plant can produce 600-1000 seeds.
- Flowers: Flower Color: White Flower Inflorescence: Raceme Flower Value To Gardener: Edible Flower Bloom Time: Spring Flower Shape: Cross Flower Petals: 4-5 petals/rays Flower Size: < 1 inch Flower Description: The blooms appear in clusters of white, tiny, 4 petaled, cross-shaped flowers. They typically bloom in spring from late April to early June.
- Leaves: Leaf Color: Green Leaf Feel: Glossy Smooth Soft Leaf Value To Gardener: Edible Leaf Type: Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately) Simple Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Leaf Shape: Reniform Leaf Margin: Dentate Lobed Hairs Present: Yes Leaf Length: < 1 inch Leaf Width: < 1 inch Leaf Description: The leaves are reniform in shape, alternate, and pinnate with a terminal leaflet. They have 2-6 pairs of smaller lateral leaflets and a rosette of larger basal leaves. The surface of the leaves is glabrous to pubescent with tiny hairs on the upper and lower surface. They are green in color and measure less than 1/2 inch to 1 inch. The margins of the leaf are lobed and shallowly toothed.
- Stem: Stem Color: Green Stem Is Aromatic: No Stem Form: Straight Stem Surface: Smooth (glabrous) Stem Description: The stems are erect, branching, and measure 3-10 inches tall. Their surfaces are glabrous to sparsely hairy.
- Landscape: Landscape Location: Container Lawn Meadow Slope/Bank Walkways Woodland Attracts: Bees Butterflies Specialized Bees Problems: Weedy
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Hairy Bittercress Killer: Learn More About Control For Hairy Bittercress
Late winter and spring signal growth of all plants, but especially weeds. Annual weed seeds overwinter and then burst into growth towards the end of the season. Hairy bittercress weed is no exception. What is hairy bittercress? The plant is an annual weed, which is one of the earliest to sprout and form seeds. Control for hairy bittercress starts early in the season, before flowers turn to seed and get a chance to spread.
What is Hairy Bittercress?
Hairy bittercress weed (Cardamine hirsuta) is an annual spring or winter pest. The plant springs from a basal rosette and bears 3 to 9 inch (8-23 cm.) long stems. The leaves are alternate and slightly scalloped with the largest at the base of the plant. Tiny white flowers develop at the ends of the stems and then turn into long seedpods. These pods split open explosively when ripe and fling seeds out into the environment.
The weed prefers cool, moist soil and is most prolific after early spring rains. The weeds spread quickly but their appearance reduces as temperatures increase. The plant has a long, deep taproot, which makes pulling them out manually ineffective. Control for hairy bittercress is cultural and chemical.
Preventing Hairy Bittercress in the Garden
This pesky weed is small enough to hide among your landscape plants. Its extensive seed expulsion means that just one or two weeds can spread quickly through the garden in spring. Early control for hairy bittercress is essential to protect the rest of the landscape from an infestation.
Prevent invasions into turf areas by encouraging good grass growth. The weeds easily infest thin or patchy areas. Apply several inches (8 cm.) of mulch around landscape plants to help prevent seeds from getting a foothold in your soil.
Cultural Control for Hairy Bittercress
Pulling out hairy bittercress weed usually leaves the root behind. The plant will re-sprout from healthy weeds and the problem persists. You can, however, use a long slim weeding tool to dig down and around the taproot and get all the plant material out of the ground.
Mowing will achieve control over time. Do it frequently enough that you remove the flower heads before they become seed pods.
As temperatures get warmer, the plant will die naturally without having reproduced. That means fewer weeds the following season.
Chemical Hairy Bittercress Killer
Severe infestations of hairy bittercress weed will require chemical treatment. Herbicides applied post emergence need to have two different active ingredients. The ingredients must be 2-4 D, triclopyr, clopyralid, dicamba, or MCPP. These are found in broadleaf herbicide preparations known as two, three, or four-way treatments.
The higher number preparations will kill a wide range of weeds. The two-way herbicide should be sufficient for your purposes unless you have a field full of a variety of weed pests as well as the hairy bittercress weed. Apply your chosen herbicide in spring or fall.
Weed That Shoots Seeds
Updated July 15, 2021
We continue to offer our full range of plant health care, lawn care, and tree care services throughout central New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.
Business hours are back to normal (see our hours here), we take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and are always receptive to your preferences for personal interaction.
Updated April 29, 2020
As an essential business, we continue to operate under our normal business hours.
Our crews are working every day to remove and prune trees, perform safety inspections, spray for ticks and mosquitoes, apply lawn and tree treatments, and address any other aspects of tree, shrub, or lawn care.
We’re available 24/7 for emergency tree work, and we’re always available by phone or email to answer your questions or discuss any issues with your trees or lawn.
As a reminder, our arborists and crew members won’t ring your doorbell (we’ll text you when we arrive on your property). Anyone you interact with will be wearing a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from you. You can see more details below in our earlier update.
Thank you for your continued support during these difficult times. And, if you can, we encourage you to get outdoors and enjoy the spring flowers and new green leaves – we all need a little beauty in our lives these days.
Updated March 23, 2020
Under the Governor’s “stay-at-home” order on 03/22/20, tree care and tree work can continue as long as tree care businesses follow social distancing recommendations. As an “essential service”, we are working hard to make sure our customers’ trees are safe and well-maintained.
We take the health and safety of our customers and employees very seriously, and have consulted with the NJ Board of Tree Experts, International Society for Arboriculture, and the Tree Care Industry Association to make sure that we are following best practices. As a result, we’ve enacted the following additional precautions to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in our local communities.
On Your Property
When one of our arborists arrives to inspect your tree(s) and provide an estimate, they will call or text to let you know they’ve arrived (rather than ringing the doorbell). You can stay indoors and communicate by phone while our arborist is on site. If you’d prefer to come outside, we will ensure that the recommended 6-foot distance is maintained.
As always, proposals and work orders will be sent to you by email; we don’t provide hand-written estimates.
You can accept a proposal directly through the link in the email, through the Customer Portal on our website, or by calling the office.
When our crews are on your property, they work independently. You do not need to be home or have any direct contact with them.
We are closely monitoring all employees for any signs of illness. Each team member knows that they should go home immediately if they feel unwell, or stay home if they’re at all concerned. If anyone becomes ill, we will all follow the CDC’s recommendations.
We’ve provided an abundance of alcohol wipes and latex gloves for each employee, are ensuring that they follow the recommended handwashing and disinfecting protocols, and have reinforced that they should maintain as much distance from each other as is practical while at work.
In the Office
In the office, Joy is working tirelessly to keep up with the spring demand and is continuing to schedule appointments for estimates. We’re experiencing a high volume of phone calls so ask for your patience as we try to get to everyone.
Scheduling and ongoing work have so far not been affected. If it becomes necessary to reschedule, we will let you know.