Authors: Ashley Averitt, Wes Dyer, Coleman Torgersen
Hairy bittercress, Cardamine hirsute L., depending on its location, is a winter or summer annual weed. It is most often found in landscape areas, container-grown plants, and greenhouses. Its stems branch at the base and can achieve a height of 12 inches. Growing on the central leaf stem is 2 to 4 pairs of leaflets that are alternately arranged. Each leaf occurs on a petiole that is distinctly hairy. One should take note that the upper leaves will be noticeably more hairy than the lower leaves. This weed flowers in clusters while each individual flower is small (2-3mm) and composed of 4 white petals. The fruit (seed capsule) is a silique, which is a long, narrow capsule with many seeds. Siliques can explosively spread the seed as far as 10 feet from the parent plant. It tends to grow in disturbed soils and will form dense mats of rosettes over an area.
Hairy bittercress has long, narrow siliques and round leaflets that are alternately arranged. Also, this weed has white flowers with 4 petals in dense clusters at the end of the stem.
Improving drainage can be a great way to deter this moisture-loving weed. If you have severe infestations of hairy bittercress, it may require chemical treatment. Post emergence herbicides such as 2-4 D, triclopyr, clopyralid, dicamba, or MCPP should be used.
Finally, don’t forget that wild hairy bittercress is edible! It is best to gather in early spring or late fall when the leaves are tender. It adds a peppery bite to raw salads, and can be cooked and added to soups.