February 22, 2011

Garden Weed: Hairy bittercress

Cardamine hirsuta

Other Names: Small Bittercress, Common Bittercress, Hoary Bittercress, Popping Cress, Pennsylvania Bittercress, Jumping Jesus, Flick Weed

IDENTIFICATIONStrolling through your garden in early spring, you spot a small, bright green mound, usually less than 6 in. tall. It’s up, and sometimes even flowering, with the daffodils. You’ve just discovered hairy bittercress, an annual weed that’s found throughout much of the United States and into Canada.

The leaves are small and rounded. Tiny white, four-petaled flowers bloom in early spring. However, in a cool, moist spot, you may find flowers blooming at any time of the year. Seed pods are narrow spikes that point straight up. When they’re dry, they spring open to eject the seeds.

FAVORITE CONDITIONS — Often hairy bittercress comes into a garden with new plants from a greenhouse or nursery, where it’s a common pest. It’ll grow just fine in sun or shade, moist or dry soil, and given time, will spread around your flowerbeds and vegetable gardens.

CONTROL — In moist soil you’ll find hairy bittercress has a taproot, but in dry conditions the roots tend to be more branched. Either way it’s easy to pull. Or if you cut it off with a hoe it won’t resprout. There’s really no need to use a herbicide unless you’re dealing with a very large stand of this pest.

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