Friday, April 3, 2009

Bittercress

Cardamine hirsuta
Bittercress plants are in the mustard family, Brassicaceae. The family name derives from the Latin name for cabbage. (The older name of the family was Crucifereae meaning cross-bearing and referring to the form of the four flower petals typical to this family.) There are two bittercresses which look very similar to my eye: Cardamine hirsuta and Cardamine oligosperma. The genus name Cardamine is derived from the Greek “kardamon” for a kind of cress or referring to a Persian or Indian herb with pungent leaves. Hirsuta refers to the hairs that grow along the stem and oligosperma refers to the fact that this species produces few speeds (Greek “oligos” for few and “sperma”for seeds). Oligosperma is native to the Northwest and has the common name of little western bittercress. Hirsuta is native to Europe and has the common name hairy bittercress; it is considered the more weedy of the two and is the one which grows freely (mostly in spring) in the yard. I guess you can eat the leaves but collecting them would be a chore.

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