Cardamine hirsuta   Hairy Bittercress CCC D N

Cardamine hirsuta whole Cardamine hirsuta close

Many, many years ago before my serious interest in wild flowers began, my wife and I moved to our first house where I was expected to do the garden. Year after year this pesky annual weed would grow and nothing I could do would stop it reappearing the following year. I remember asking neighbours what it was and nobody seemed to know. Eventually I found it was this plant: Cardamine hirsuta (Hairy Bittercress), one of our most successful native weeds.

It flowers quite early in Spring and is usually smaller than C. flexuosa (Wavy Bitter-cress) with which it can be confused. The difference is that most of the flowers on C. hirsuta (Hairy Bittercress) will have four stamens while most on C. flexuosa will have six. There will be some on both with five and occasionally the numbers the wrong way round. The best time to distinguish them is therefore in spring when each plant has several flowers each of which can be examined under a hand lens. The RHS photo shows four stamens but you must always look carefull for the 5th and 6th are oftem much smaller and almost hidden in C. flexuosa.

Don't be fooled by the English name of Cardamine hirsuta - it's actually hairless but C. flexuosa can have hairs.

Like C. flexuosa this plant is found throughout the British Isles and Ireland.

LHS: Near Cressbrookdale, 18th March 2005 RHS: Arnside, Lancs. 15th April 2006

Added on 15th October 2005, updated 20th November 2008, updated 10th March 2010

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